Malaysia’s toppled leader Najib Razak will go on trial this week over an extraordinary financial scandal that contributed to the downfall of his long-ruling coalition and reverberated around the world.
The former prime minister and his cronies are accused of stealing $4.5 billion from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in a mind-boggling fraud that stretched from Switzerland to the Seychelles.
The money was purportedly used to fund a global shopping spree — a $250-million super-yacht, high-end real estate, and Monet and Van Gogh artworks were among the items allegedly bought with cash plundered from public coffers.
The scandal ensnared celebrities, with the fraud’s suspected mastermind seen partying with Leonardo DiCaprio and Paris Hilton, while the new Malaysian government has accused Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs of stealing billions during its work with 1MDB.
Public revulsion at the graft allegations played a large part in the election defeat of Najib — who set up the fund — and a coalition that had ruled Malaysia uninterrupted since independence from Britain in 1957.
Since his shock poll loss in May, the 65-year-old has been arrested and hit with 42 charges linked to the scandal. He has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.