Najib Razak's top lawyer charged with money laundering

Najib Razak's top lawyer charged with money laundering

Muhammad Shafee Abdullah
Former Malaysian leader Najib Razak's chief lawyer was arrested and charged with money laundering on Sep 13 as authorities intensified a crackdown on corruption linked to the previous government. (Photo: AFP / MOHD RASFAN)

KUALA LUMPUR: The lawyer of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was charged with money laundering on Thursday (Sep 13) by anti-graft agents looking into how billions of dollars went missing from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

In charges read out at a court in Kuala Lumpur, Muhammad Shafee was charged with two counts of receiving money from illegal activities amounting to RM9.5 million (US$2.3 million) from former prime minister Najib Razak and two counts of making incorrect filings under the Income Tax Act 1967.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The charges were brought by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). A source from MACC had said that Muhammad Shafee was arrested earlier in the morning, according to Bernama news agency. 

READ: Singapore to return S$15 million in 1MDB-linked funds to Malaysia

Muhammad Shafee is leading a defence team for Najib, who faces charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power at 1MDB. 

The lawyer has been in the spotlight after Parti Keadilan Rakyat president-elect Anwar Ibrahim on Sep 7 said that an officer from the Attorney General's Chamber had issued an affidavit claiming that Muhammad Shafee received payments amounting to RM9.5 million from Najib in 2013 and 2014.

He allegedly received the money to lead the prosecution against Anwar in his appeal against the second sodomy conviction in 2015. The lawyer has denied the allegations, saying that the payments were for legal services done for UMNO and Barisan Nasional.

READ: Najib Razak says he has difficulty paying his bills after his bank account is frozen

READ: I accept my new role as opposition lawmaker, Najib says

Malaysia reopened the probe into 1MDB after Najib, who chaired the fund's advisory board, was defeated by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in a stunning election win in May.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to abuse of power and other charges arising the 1MDB investigation.

Singapore returned 1MDB funds worth US$11.1 million to Malaysia last week, and Malaysia got back a US$250 million superyacht.

Malaysia's Finance Minister said on Thursday that recovery of the 1MDB assets was going much slower than expected.

Malaysia "will be lucky if we get 30 per cent back" from the 1MDB funds, Lim Guan Eng told a group of reporters at the CLSA Investors' Forum in Hong Kong.

Source: Agencies/na(mn)