The charges against Najib and Irwan Serigar Abdullah, Malaysia’s former Treasury secretary-general, were the latest in a widening crackdown on corruption.

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak arrives in court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia October 4, 2018.
Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak arrives in court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia October 4, 2018. (Reuters)

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak and his top treasury official Irwan Serigar Abdullah were on Thursday charged with six counts each of criminal breach of trust involving government funds of $1.58 billion (6.6 billion ringgit).

If found guilty each charge carries a jail term of up to 20 years, a financial penalty and a whipping sentence but both Najib and Irwan would be exempted from whipping as they are over the age of 50.

The two pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Prosecutors said the two allegedly committed the breach of trust offence with $52.8 million (220 million ringgit) of government funds meant for Kuala Lumpur International Airport Berhad and $312 million (1.3 billion ringgit) meant for a subsidy and cash aid programme.

They also committed the offence with $1.22 billion (5.12 billion ringgit) of other government funds, prosecutors said.

Najib is already facing 32 money laundering, graft and breach of trust charges over transactions linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Najib has pleaded not guilty and his trial is due to begin next year.

US authorities allege that $4.5 billion was siphoned from the fund and that about $700 million was diverted into Najib’s personal bank accounts.

The corruption scandal at 1MDB, founded by Najib in 2009, led to the downfall of his coalition in the May general election.

Several former high-ranking officials have been charged with suspected graft since the unexpected election victory of a coalition led by Mahathir Mohamad.

Last week, former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was charged with 45 offences including money laundering and accepting bribes. He pleaded not guilty.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies