11 July 2024

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 (Reuters) – Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former prime minister Najib Razak, arrived in court on Thursday to hear the verdict on charges against her of seeking bribes in exchange forgovernment contracts, just days after her husband was jailed for corruption.

Najib and his wife, who has faced criticism for her lavish lifestyle, are at the centre of a wide-ranging crackdown on corruption mounted after his administration was voted out in a historic 2018 election.

Last week, Najib began serving a 12-year jail sentence after Malaysia’s top court upheld his conviction in a case linked to a multibillion-dollar graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). He remains on trial in four other corruption cases.

Rosmah, 70, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of soliciting and receiving bribes between 2016 and 2017 to help a company secure a $279 million solar power supply project from the government when her husband was in power.

The charges carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of at least five times the amount of the bribe, although Rosmah could seek a stay on sentencing by the Kuala Lumpur High Court pending appeals to higher courts.

Prosecutors say Rosmah sought a bribe of 187.5 million ringgit ($41.80 million), and received 6.5 million ringgit from an official of the company that won the project.

Rosmah has argued that she was framed by her former aide as well as several government and company officials involved in the project.

She arrived at Kuala Lumpur High Court dressed in a yellow baju kurung, a traditional Malaysian long blouse and skirt, and matching head scarf and mask.

She did not speak to reporters.

In a last minute bid to postpone the verdict, Rosmah filed an application in court earlier this week to recuse the judge overseeing her trial.

The High Court will likely hear the application before delivering its decision, a prosecutor told Reuters.

Rosmah also faces 17 charges of money laundering and tax evasion for illegally receiving 7.1 million ringgit between 2013 and 2017 in a separate case. That trial has not yet commenced pending efforts by Rosmah to recuse the presiding judge.

Najib’s election defeat came amid public outrage over the 1MDB scandal, which is the subject of corruption and money laundering investigations in at least six countries.

The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that $4.5 billion were stolen from 1MDB, about $1 billion of which made their way into Najib’s personal bank accounts.

Some of the funds stolen from 1MDB were used to buy jewellery, including a $27 million pink diamond necklace for Rosmah, U.S. lawsuits say. Najib and Rosmah have said they never demanded, requested, or intended to purchase the necklace.

Malaysian police seized around $275 million in cash and jewellery, handbags, watches and other luxury goods in raids on homes linked to the couple in 2018.