Man­sor, the wife of Na­jib, charged

The Phnom Penh Post - - FRONT PAGE -

THE lux­ury-lov­ing wife of Malaysia’s for­mer prime min­is­ter was on Thurs­day charged with money laun­der­ing and tax eva­sion linked to a multi­bil­lion­dol­lar scan­dal that helped bring down the coun­try’s pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment.

Ros­mah Man­sor, t he 66-year-old wife of for­mer prime min­is­ter Na­jib Razak, pleaded not guilty to 17 charges that could see her spend the rest of her life in prison.

Re­viled in Malaysia for her lav­ish over­seas shop­ping sprees and fetish for Birkin hand­bags as well as daz­zling jew­ellery, Ros­mah was re­leased on bail af­ter spend­ing the night in de­ten­tion at the of­fice of the coun­try’s anti-cor­rup­tion agency.

Her hus­band is also out on bail on more than two dozen charges linked to the al­leged plun­der of state funds dur­ing his nine years in power.

Prime Min­is­ter Ma­hathir Mo­hamad, 93, who came back from re­tire­ment to c h a l l e n g e Na j i b, h a s launched a crack­down against cor­rup­tion in the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment.

“There is no idea of re­venge and any­thing like that . . . If you steal money, you will be charged in court,” the of­fi­cial Ber­nama news agency quoted him as say­ing.

In the charge sheets, pros­e­cu­tors ac­cused Ros­mah of hav­ing “en­gaged di­rectly in

a trans­ac­tion that in­volves pro­ceeds of un­law­ful ac­tiv­ity” in vi­o­la­tion of laws against money laun­der­ing.

A dozen charges in­volved de­posits to a sin­gle bank ac­count be­long­ing to her from 2013-17, to­talling more than seven mil­lion ring­git. The re­main­ing charges were for dodg­ing taxes on the de­posits.

Lead pros­e­cu­tor Gopal Sri Ram told the court Ros­mah’s al­leged of­fences were “very se­ri­ous”.

He also said Ros­mah “had ap­proached a wit­ness with a re­quest to give a state­ment in her favour”.

Ros­mah was al­lowed to post bail of two mil­lion ring­git ($483,365) and or­dered to sur­ren­der her pass­port.

She was barred from con­tact­ing any wit­nesses.

Ros­mah, wear­ing an or­ange dress and scarf, ar­rived un­der heavy se­cu­rity at the court com­plex Thurs­day af­ter be­ing ar­rested the pre­vi­ous day and held overnight at the head­quar­ters of the coun­try’s anti-cor­rup­tion agency.

In court, she sat qui­etly in the dock and did not look at the gallery, where fam­ily mem­bers were seated. Mean­while her hus­band made a sep­a­rate court ap­pear­ance Thurs­day in con­nec­tion with some of the more than two dozen charges lodged against him.

Na­jib, 65, has de­nied any wrong­do­ing de­spite rev­e­la­tions that hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars ended up in his bank ac­counts.

Lawyers said the dis­graced for­mer first cou­ple face pro­tracted le­gal bat­tles as they are be­ing tried in or­di­nary courts.

“For the trial and all sub­se­quent ap­peals to con­clude, this may take some years,” said N Suren­dran, a lawyer who ad­vis- es the rights group Lawyers for Lib­erty.

A cen­tral is­sue in the May elec­tion that ousted Na­jib was the al­le­ga­tion that his fam­ily and cronies looted bil­lions of dol­lars from state fund 1MDB in a fraud ring that stretched from Sin­ga­pore to Switzer­land.

Ros­mah’s love of the trap­pings of wealth, as well as im­pe­ri­ous man­ner, made her a tar­get of crit­ics ahead of the poll. Af­ter the elec­tion loss, a stash of cash, jew­ellery and hun­dreds of de­signer hand­bags worth as much as $273 mil­lion was seized from prop­er­ties linked to Na­jib and Ros­mah.

Suren­dran told AFP that charg­ing Na­jib and Ros­mah sends a mes­sage that “cor­rup­tion in gov­ern­ment will no longer be tol­er­ated.”

AFP

Ros­mah Man­sor (top cen­tre) is es­corted by po­lice on her ar­rival at court on Thurs­day.

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