Malaysia’s former first lady guilty of corruption

Each of the charges against Rosmah carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of five times the amount of the bribe. The court was hearing mitigation statements Thursday afternoon before deciding the penalty.


Najib and Rosmah have been hit with multiple counts of graft after the shocking ouster of his United Malays National Organisation in the 2018 elections, fuelled by public anger over the 1MDB scandal. UMNO has since returned to power after defections caused the collapse of the reformist government that won 2018 polls.

Rosmah’s trial had shed light on her alleged sway in the government since her husband took office in 2009. Prosecutors said Rosmah wielded considerable influence due to her “overbearing nature,” even though she held no official position. Witnesses testified that a special department, called First Lady of Malaysia, was set up to handle Rosmah’s affairs.

Her former aide, who was jointly charged with Rosmah but later testified for the prosecution, told the court that many businessmen lobbied Rosmah for help to secure government projects. The aide testified Rosmah was feared by civil servants and requests from her department were often swiftly carried out.

The court also heard that she spent 100,000 ringgit a month ($32,877.22) to hire online propagandists to deflect criticism of her lavish lifestyle that led to her being despised by many Malaysians.

After Najib lost power, police raiding family residences seized hundreds of boxes of luxurious Hermes Birkin handbags, 423 watches, 14 tiaras and other jewellery plus cash estimated at more than 1.1 billion ringgit.

During her trial, 23 prosecution witnesses testified but only two defence witnesses were called, including Rosmah. She has told the court she was never involved in government affairs and that her former aide was a corrupt liar who had used her name to solicit bribes and pocketed the money himself.

Separately, Rosmah has also been charged with laundering illegal proceeds and tax evasion linked to 1MDB in another trial that hasn’t started.

1MDB was a development fund that Najib set up after taking office. Investigators allege more than $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib’s associates through layers of bank accounts in the U.S. and other countries to finance Hollywood films and extravagant purchases that included hotels, a luxury yacht, artworks and jewellery.

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