Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak sought to show he was the victim of a cunning fugitive financier as he opened his defence Tuesday in his first corruption trial linked to the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB state investment fund.
Najib is defending himself against seven charges of abuse of power, breach of trust and money laundering relating to 42 million ringgit (10.1 million U.S. dollars) that allegedly went into his bank accounts from SRC International, a former unit of the 1MDB fund.
Standing in the witness stand in a crisp blue suit, Najib outlined 1MDB's formation and the role of financier Low Taek Jho, who has been identified by American investigators as the mastermind behind the massive scandal that is being probed in several countries.
Najib's defence attorney said Tuesday that "the entire management of 1MDB and SRC were paid off by Jho Low, they were all eating from the palms of Jho Low."
The fund ran into problems over its Islamic bond issuance and Malaysia's cabinet "reluctantly" agreed to take over in 2009 to prevent embarrassment to the king and adverse impact on the country's bond market, he said.
Najib denies any wrongdoing and accuses Malaysia's new government of seeking political vengeance.
This is the first of five criminal cases against Najib over the 1MDB corruption scandal. His wife, several officials from his government, and the U.S. bank Goldman Sachs also face charges related to the case.