Former Malaysia first lady's graft trial to proceed

·2-min read
Rosmah Mansor arriving at the Duta court complex for a hearing in her graft trial in Kuala Lumpur

The corruption trial of Malaysia's scandal-plagued former first lady will proceed after a judge ruled Thursday that prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence to make a case, boosting efforts to bring her to justice.

Rosmah Mansor will now present her defence in the next stage of the case, and told the Kuala Lumpur High Court she will take the stand to testify.

Notorious for her overseas shopping trips and vast collection of handbags, she became a lightning rod for public anger as the government of prime minister Najib Razak was engulfed by graft allegations.

Her husband's long-ruling coalition suffered a shock election defeat in 2018 in large part due to claims he and his officials plundered billions of dollars from the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund.

Both the former leader and his wife were hit with multiple charges over the looting of the investment vehicle, and last year Najib was handed a 12-year jail term after being convicted in a 1MDB-linked trial.

Rosmah's first trial does not, however, centre on 1MDB, but on allegations she received bribes linked to a government project.

Prosecutors allege she pocketed 6.5 million ringgit ($1.6 million) for helping a company secure the project to provide solar power generators to schools on the Malaysian part of Borneo island.

The 69-year-old is also accused of soliciting a further 187.5 million ringgit. She faces three counts of corruption in the trial, which began a year ago, and denies all charges against her.

Prosecutors recently wrapped up their case, and judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan ruled they had "credible evidence to prove every element of the offences" under the three charges.

"I therefore call on the accused to enter her defence," he said. If the judge thought the case was too weak, she would have been acquitted.

Defence lawyer Jagjit Singh said Rosmah was "upset and distressed, and we had to comfort her.

"The defence team feels saddened. The (judge) has not given the reasons for his decision."

The defence stage of the trial will begin in June.

Najib, who is free on bail as he appeals his conviction, turned up at court to show support for his wife.

The couple's lavish lifestyles came to symbolise the perceived rot in Malaysia's ruling elite.

Following the 2018 election, police discovered valuables -- including cash, jewellery and luxury handbags -- worth up to $273 million in properties linked to them.

jsm-sr/fox