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Malaysian Court Orders Graft Trial of Ex-PM's Wife to Proceed

Rosmah Mansor (C), wife of Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak, leaves the Duta court complex after a hearing in her graft trial in Kuala Lumpur on February 18, 2021. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

A Malaysian court on Thursday ordered Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, to enter a defense in a corruption trial linked to a multimillion-dollar project approved while the ex-premier was still in power.

Dozens of graft charges were filed against the couple after Najib lost the 2018 election, amid popular anger over alleged corruption and their opulent lifestyle after police raids revealed Rosmah owned millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry and luxury handbags.

The Kuala Lumpur high court ruled that the prosecution had succeeded in proving sufficient grounds for the case to proceed.

"This is my finding that the prosecution has produced credible evidence to prove every element of the offense... I now call upon the accused to enter a defense," judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan said in his ruling.

Rosmah, 69, told the court that she would testify under oath when taking the witness stand during defense proceedings.

Rosmah faces three charges of soliciting and receiving bribes involving a sum of $48.09 million to help a company, Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd, secure a solar power project.

Of that total, prosecutors accuse Rosmah of arranging for $46 million to be paid as a political donation to Najib, while also receiving two bribes of $1.6 million.

If found guilty, she could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined at least five times the sum specified in the charges.

In July, Najib was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 12 years in jail in the first of several trials linked to a multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). He has since filed an appeal against the decision.

The couple have denied any wrongdoing, saying the charges are politically motivated.