Former Malaysian PM charged with money laundering

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Bangkok : Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was on Wednesday charged in a Kuala Lumpur court on three new counts related to a corruption scandal linked to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad state fund.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him, Efe news reported.

Razak was charged under a money laundering act with three counts of receiving a total of RM42 million ($10.3 million) from unlawful activities into two bank accounts from SRC International, a 1MDB subsidiary, Malaysian state news agency Bernama reported.

He allegedly recieved transfers of RM27 million, RM10 million and RM5 million between December 26, 2014 and Feburary 10, 2015.

The indictments carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail per charge and a possible fine of five times the amount of money allegedly received illegally.

The charges were added to an earlier four - three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of abuse of power - imposed in July on Najib, who founded and chaired 1MDB after becoming prime minister in 2009.

Each of these earlier charges, allegedly committed between 2011 and 2015, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Razak also pleaded not guilty to those first four charges before being released on bail.

Razak's fall from grace came after losing the May 9 elections to his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad in a historic victory against Barisan Nasional (National Front) which has ruled uninterrupted from 1974.

The government currently headed by 92-year-old Mahathir has reopened and expedited cases against Najib, including those surrounding the 1MDB scandal.

A media investigation reported in 2015 the transfer of $681 million from 1MDB to Najib's private accounts. He has denied any illegal activity.

In addition to Malaysia, the United States, Switzerland and Singapore are among half a dozen countries investigating the alleged embezzlement.

The US Department of Justice estimates the money diverted from 1MDB to be $4.5 billion, of which about $1 billion may have been laundered in the US through the purchase of real estate, yachts, jewellery and works of art, among others.