Former Malaysian leader Najib Razak's third corruption trial opened Monday, with prosecutors saying Najib had tampered with a government audit of the 1MDB state investment fund in a bid to avoid civil and criminal proceedings.
Najib, 66, faces multiple corruption charges linked to the looting of the 1MDB fund, a scandal that contributed to his election defeat last year.
Najib is being jointly tried with Arul Kanda Kandasamy, 1MDB ex-CEO, who is accused of abetting him. Monday's trial opened just days after another court ordered Najib to enter his defense in his first corruption case linked to money entering his account from a former 1MDB unit.
His ongoing second trial started in August.
In all, Najib faces 42 charges of criminal breach of trust, graft, abuse of power and money laundering in five criminal cases over 1MDB corruption that led to investigations in the United States and several countries.
His wife and stepson, several officials from his government, and the U.S. firm Goldman Sachs also face charges related to the scandal.
U.S. investigators say at least 4.5 billion U.S. dollars was stolen from 1MDB by Najib's associates and laundered through layers of bank accounts in the U.S. and other countries to finance Hollywood films and buy hotels, a luxury yacht, art works, jewelry and other extravagances.
More than 700 million U.S. dollars from the fund allegedly landed in Najib's bank account.
Prosecutors earlier made slight amendments to the charge against Najib and Arul Kanda, adding specific passages in the audit report that were doctored.
Najib's lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah appealed for more time, saying the defense team faces "three battle fronts and it is worse than Waterloo." But the judge ordered the trial to proceed.
Sri Ram said prosecutors will at a later stage summon Arul Kanda as a prosecution witness. Arul Kanda's lawyer, N. Sivananthan, expressed surprise, saying his client can't give evidence against himself and that he will object at the time.