Wife of Malaysia’s former prime minister pleads not guilty to charges of money laundering and tax evasion

Photo by Hadi Azmi.

Rosmah Mansor, the wife of Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak, today pleaded not guilty to 17 money laundering charges.

Twelve of the charges relate to the alleged deposit into her personal bank account of the proceeds of unlawful activity and five refer to an alleged failure to declare income to the Inland Revenue.

All the charges were brought under Section 4(1) of the 2001 Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act, which has been renamed as the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.

The allegations involve sums of money that total more than 7 million ringgit (about $US1.69 million).

It is alleged that, between December 4, 2013, and June 8, 2017, Rosmah engaged directly in transactions that involved proceeds of unlawful activity.  The charges relate to deposits into her personal account at Affin Bank Berhad.

Rosmah, aged 66, who appeared this morning before Judge Azura Alwi in the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur, is further accused of failing to declare 7.097 million ringgit to the Inland Revenue.

Bail was set at 2 million ringgit. Prosecutors had asked for bail of 10 million. Judge Alwi allowed the bail payment to be made in instalments, with 500,000 ringgit to be paid today and the remaining amount to be settled by October 11.

Section 4(1) specifies that a person convicted of a money laundering offence is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 years and a fine of not less than five times the sum or value of the proceeds of an unlawful activity or instrumentalities of an offence at the time the offence was committed, or five million ringgit, whichever is higher.

However, in the case of nine of the charges brought against Rosmah, it is stated that the penalty on conviction would be imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, a fine not exceeding five million ringgit, or both.

Prosecuting counsel Gopal Sri Ram said he had evidence that Rosmah had asked a witness to make a statement in her favour and asked the judge to impose conditions that she not contact witnesses or potential witnesses and surrender both of her passports.

The prosecuting lawyers said there was a real danger of witness tampering in the case. In the case of Anwar Ibrahim, Gopal Sri Ram said, this was the reason given for refusal of bail.

Gopal Sri Ram said that bail of 10 million ringgit would not be unreasonable given the peculiarity of the case and the financial standing of the accused and those associated with her.

Rosmah’s defence lawyers had requested bail of 250,000 ringitt, which Gopal Sri Ram said was “ridiculously low”.  In comments made after the hearing, the lead defence lawyer K. Kumaraendran said the bail amount sought by the prosecution was “very unprecendented and unreasonable”.

He also stated that there was no mention in the charges brought against Rosmah of the sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and that there was no witness tampering.

Defence lawyer Geethan Ram Vincent said the police report relating to the alleged witness tampering was only produced today, was just lodged last Friday, and was not made by the witness himself, but by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

“No investigation has been done and it’s pretty much unfounded,” he added. “We have never been given an opportunity to negate it or to challenge it.”

Gopal Sri Ram, who is a former federal court judge, said the seriousness of the charges against Rosmah were “severely compounded” by her station in life. A person of her standing should not be in the dock in the first place, he said.

The MACC arrested Rosmah at 3.20 p.m. yesterday after questioning her for a third time and she spent last night in custody at the commission’s headquarters in Putrajaya.

Last month she was questioned in a marathon 13-hour session at the MACC.

Najib also in court

Najib was also at the KL court complex today for case management, which was adjourned until October 31 after Najib’s lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, made further complaints about the prosecution submitting documents in the form of a CD.

Shafee told reporters after the hearing that his team had printed out the documents, but about a third of the material provided on the CD was unreadable. The documents were also not in a logical sequence, he said, and there was no index. Also, Shafee said, the prosecution had still not provided the defence with all the required documentation.

Najib’s trial is scheduled to start on February 12 next year. The dates have been set as February 12 to 28 and March 4 to 29.

Photo by Hadi Azmi.

Najib now faces a total of 32 charges.

On September 20, 25 new charges were added to the seven he already faced.

Twenty-four of the charges relate to alleged money laundering, five to alleged abuse of power, and three to alleged criminal breach of trust.

Today’s hearing concerned the seven charges he pleaded not guilty to in July and August.

On July 4, Najib pleaded not guilty to three charges of alleged criminal breach of trust and one of alleged abuse of power.

On August 8, he pleaded not guilty to three money laundering charges.

In the case of the 25 charges brought on September 20, Najib is accused of using his position as prime minister, finance minister, and chairman of 1MDB to obtain nearly 2.3 billion ringgit (about US$556.23 million) in illegal transfers to his own accounts between 2011 and 2014.

He is also accused of using and transferring illicit funds linked to 1MDB.

The seven charges brought earlier centre on alleged corruption in relation to SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.

In its investigations into allegations about 1MDB, the MACC initially focused on the alleged siphoning of funds from SRC International to Najib’s account.

Najib faces allegations that 42 million Malaysian ringgit (about US$10.3 million) was transferred from SRC International to his personal bank account.

His bail was set at 3.5 million ringgit (about USS$846,000).

On June 27, the director of the federal commercial crime investigation department, Amar Singh, said the total value of items seized in raids on premises linked to Najib was estimated at between 900 million and 1.1 billion ringgit.

This article has been updated.

Further update:

Najib Razak and former treasury secretary-general Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah were charged on Thursday (October 25) at the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur with six counts of criminal breach of trust allegedly involving more than 6.6 billion ringgit of government funds. They pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Update 16/11/2018

Rosmah Mansor today pleaded not guilty to two new charges brought under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act.

It is alleged that she attempted to obtain 187.5 million ringgit from the managing director of Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd, Saidi Abang Samsudin, between March and April, 2016, and that she received 1.5 million ringgit in bribes from Saidi to assist him in obtaining the contract to install solar hybrid systems in rural schools in Sarawak.

Rosmah’s former aide Rizal Mansor was charged at a separate hearing with two counts of soliciting funds and two counts of receiving bribes from Saidi. He also pleaded not guilty.

Update 13/12/2018

Najib has also pleaded not guilty to a charge of tampering with a 1MDB final audit document.

He was accused of using his position as prime minister to order alterations to the 1MDB final audit report before it was tabled to the Public Accounts Committee so as to avoid any civil disciplinary action being taken against him.

The charge was brought under Section 23(1) of the 2009 Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act.

Najib now faces 39 charges in total.

Update 2/2/2019

Najib now faces 42 charges. On January 28, he pleaded not guilty to three additional charges involving alleged money laundering in relation to SRC International. This brings the number of charges he faces in relation to SRC International to ten.