KUALA LUMPUR: A former media adviser to ex-Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was charged on Wednesday (Feb 20) with two counts of money laundering involving more than RM14 million (US$3.2 million).
British national Paul Stadlen, who was an adviser to Najib, was not in court when the charges were brought against him.
The prosecution, conducted by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), sought for an arrest warrant against Stadlen.
MACC investigators issued a notice in November calling for Stadlen, whose whereabouts are unknown, to assist in its 1MDB probe. He reportedly left the country soon after the general election in May last year that unseated the Barisan Nasional government which Najib led.
Stadlen is accused of ordering a series of payments from an account of a client of the law firm, Hafarizam Wan Aisha Mubarak, to several individuals and companies.
The 27 transactions, which amounted to more than RM8.1 million, were made between June and December 2014, the first charge alleged. The monies were said to be proceeds of money laundering activities linked to state investment fund 1MDB.
The second charge accused Stadlen of ordering 16 transactions from the same client of the legal firm between January and August 2015. The money, which amounted to RM6.1 million, was paid to individuals and companies, the court heard.
The legal firm concerned was helmed by UMNO lawyer Hafarizam Harun, who on Thursday pleaded not guilty to two counts of money laundering for depositing cheques totalling RM15 million from Najib into his firm's client account, said Bernama.
Mishcon de Reya, a London-based law firm representing Stadlen, said in a statement their client denied wrongdoing and described the charges against him as politically-motivated, media reported.
"The Malaysian government has a political agenda, and Stadlen is now caught up in the backlash against former prime minister Najib," Kevin Gold, Mishcon de Reya's managing partner, was quoted as saying by news portal Malaysiakini.
The firm did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Stadlen headed public relations firm Apco Malaysia, and reportedly helped Najib in his publicity campaigns.
Last November, the MACC said that it was looking for Stadlen to help with the 1MDB probe. At least six countries are investigating 1MDB, a state fund founded by Najib in 2009.
If found guilty, Stadlen can be jailed up to five years or fined up to RM5 million or both.
Additional reporting by Melissa Goh