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Najib takes witness stand on corruption charges related to 1MDB case

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Kuala Lumpur, Dec 3 (Net) -- Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak entered his defense on Tuesday for the corruption charges related to the state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali on Nov. 11 ordered Najib to present his case as prosecution has established cases on the seven charges against him -- three charges of criminal breach of trust, one count of abusing his position and three counts of money laundering related to SRC International funds, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.
Najib had chosen to give sworn evidence from the witness stand, where he will be cross examined by the prosecution after reading his 243-page statement to the court.
In reading out his prepared statement, Najib denied being the architect of 1MDB, which was formed in 2009 after the federal government took over the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) established by the Tereng-ganu state government to solve its financial problem.
Najib also said he had been introduced to Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, as an individual who was well-connected to the Middle East. Low himself is wanted by the Malaysian government for his role in 1MDB case.
The defense team will prove that Najib did not misappropriate funds and did not act dishonestly, and that Low had masterminded the operation, Najib's lead counsel Shafee Abdullah said.
"The amount transferred to his account was done without his knowledge or involvement as the transactions were being manipulated by third parties without his knowledge and approval," Shafee said.
Prosecutors have argued that Najib wielded huge influence over the 1MDB's operation and knew that stolen money was being funneled from it into his accounts, with Judge Mohd Nazlan ruling the elements of misusing position, dishonesty and money laundering by the accused had been proven by the prosecution.
Some 42 million ringgit (10.5 million U.S. dollars) from SRC International was allegedly transferred to Najib's personal accounts while he was then prime minister, finance minister and advisor of 1MDB.
The trial began early April this year with the prosecution calling 57 witnesses to the stand over 58 days of hearings. Among those called included former bankers, officials with the country's retirement fund as well as members of the country's anti-corruption body.
The 66-year-old has been slapped with dozens of other charges for corruption, money laundering, power abuse and criminal breach of trust involving millions of ringgit since his ruling coalition lost power in the national elections last May.
He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor and step-son Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz are also facing corruption and money laun-dering charges, with all of them pleading not guilty.