November 15, 2018 / 7:13 AM / in a month

Wife of Malaysia's former PM Najib charged with two counts of graft

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia on Thursday accused Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, on charges of soliciting and receiving bribes involving a sum of 189 million ringgit ($45.12 million) to help a company secure a government project.

FILE PHOTO: Rosmah Mansor, wife of Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak, arrives to give a statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in Putrajaya, Malaysia September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

Najib and his wife, who has faced criticism for her extravagant lifestyle, are at the center of a wide-ranging graft investigation launched by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who was returned to power by a stunning election victory in May.

Since his defeat, Najib has been charged with 38 counts of graft, mostly over a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Rosmah was charged with 17 money laundering offences last month.

Najib and Rosmah have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

On Thursday, Rosmah was charged with two additional counts of corruption.

Prosecutors said Rosmah sought a bribe of 187.5 million ringgit ($45 million) in 2016 from an executive of Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd to help it win a solar project worth 1.25 billion ringgit ($298 million) in schools in the eastern state of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo.

The second charge involves a bribe of 1.5 million ringgit ($358,000) that she received from the same company official in 2017, prosecutors said.

Rosmah pleaded not guilty to both the charges, which carry a jail sentence of up to 20 years each and a fine of at least five times the amount.

Jepak Holdings said last year it won the solar contract from the education ministry.

A spokeswoman for Jepak Holdings declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Following Mahathir’s election victory, Najib and Rosmah, 66, were barred from leaving the country, and properties linked to them have been raided.

Malaysians have been outraged by the seizure of around $275 million worth of cash and goods, such as expensive handbags, jewelry and watches, from such properties.

OTHERS CHARGED

Other officials close to the couple have also been arrested and charged since May.

Rizal Mansor, a former aide, was charged on Thursday with soliciting and receiving bribes for himself and on behalf of Rosmah over the solar project.

In court, he pleaded not guilty.

Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, a former minister in Najib’s cabinet, was charged with corruption involving a sum of 3 million ringgit. He also pleaded not guilty.

Last month, Malaysia charged its former treasury chief with criminal breach of trust over the 1MDB investigation.

The 1MDB scandal was one of the major reasons for Najib’s election defeat. The fund is the subject of corruption and money-laundering investigations in at least six countries.

U.S. authorities say $4.5 billion was siphoned from 1MDB and about $700 million was diverted into Najib’s personal bank accounts. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan and Liz Lee; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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