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Former Malaysian Prime Minister Charged With Criminal Breach Of Trust

Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak exits the Kuala Lumpur High Court in August. He was charged of six counts of criminal breach of trust on Wednesday.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been charged with multiple counts of criminal breach of trust involving his alleged misuse of funds totaling the equivalent of $1.58 billion.

Najib was charged alongside Irwan Serigar Abdullah, Malaysia's former treasury secretary-general, according to Reuters. The two pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to all charges.

Each of the six counts of criminal breach of trust faced by Najib and Irwan comes with up to 20 years in prison, according to The Associated Press. The charges also include a whipping penalty; Najib would be exempt from them as he is above the age of 50.

The six charges are the latest in a crackdown on Najib, who was ousted as prime minister in May when he lost reelection, ending his party's six-decades of dominance in Malaysian politics. The 65-year-old already faced 32 charges related to money-laundering and bribery, according to Channel NewsAsia.

"Nothing in the charges show that any of the acts I undertook resulted in any benefit to me," Najib reportedly said at a news conference after the court hearing.

Wednesday's charges stem from alleged corruption in Najib's sovereign wealth fund, known as the 1Malaysia Development Berhad or 1MDB.

He created the 1MDB fund in 2009, hoping to obtain international investment. Instead, it amassed an estimated debt of $11 billion.

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of dollars from the fund wound up in Najib's personal bank accounts. Billions more were laundered through shell companies and used to purchase luxury assets, the U.S. Justice Department says.

"These assets allegedly included high-end real estate and hotel properties in New York and Los Angeles, a $35 million jet aircraft, works of art by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, an interest in the music publishing rights of EMI Music and the production of the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street," the DOJ said.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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