Malaysia's ex-PM Najib Razak found guilty in 1MDB scandal case

Agencies
July 28, 2020

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Kuala Lumpur, Jul 28: Malaysia's ex-leader Najib Razak was found guilty Tuesday in his first trial over the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal, two years after the fraud contributed to the downfall of his long-ruling government.

The former prime minister could now face decades in jail after being convicted on all charges in the case related to the looting of sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Billions of dollars were stolen from the investment vehicle and spent on everything from high-end real estate to pricey art, while investment bank Goldman Sachs also became embroiled in the scandal.

Anger at the looting played a large part in the shock loss of Najib's long-ruling coalition in elections in 2018, and he was arrested and hit with dozens of charges following his defeat.

The verdict was a test of Malaysia's rule of law. It comes about five months after Najib's scandal-plagued party returned to power as part of a coalition, development observers had feared could affect the outcome of the case.

About 16 months after it began, the Kuala Lumpur High Court delivered the verdict in Najib's first trial, which centred on the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($9.9 million) from a former 1MDB unit, SRC International, into his accounts.

Najib had vehemently denied wrongdoing.

But Judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali took apart all the arguments put forward by his defence, and found him guilty on the seven charges he faced.

"In conclusion, after considering all the evidence in this trial, I find the prosecution has successfully proven the case," the judge told the court.

The charges were one of abuse of power, three of criminal breach of trust and three of money-laundering.

The counts of abuse of power and criminal breach of trust are punishable by up to 20 years in jail each, while the money-laundering charges are punishable by up to 15 years each.

Sentencing was not handed down straight away. The 67-year-old will likely appeal and he may not be sent to jail immediately. If his conviction is upheld, he will also be barred from political office for several years.

Najib had insisted he was ignorant of the transactions.

The defence team portrayed Najib as a victim and instead sought to paint financier Low Taek Jho, a key figure in the scandal who has been charged in the US and Malaysia, as the mastermind.

Low, whose whereabouts are unknown, maintains his innocence.

Prosecutors insisted Najib was in control of the 1MDB unit, SRC International.

The return of Najib's party to power as part of a coalition in March followed the collapse of Mahathir Mohamad's reformist administration.

Since then, 1MDB-linked charges were unexpectedly dropped against the ex-leader's stepson Riza Aziz, a producer of Hollywood movie "The Wolf of Wall Street", in exchange for him agreeing to return assets to Malaysia.

Prosecutors also dropped dozens of charges against Najib ally Musa Aman, the former leader of Sabah state.

The amounts involved in Najib's first case are small compared to those in his second and most significant trial, which centres on allegations he illicitly obtained more than $500 million.

Malaysia had charged Goldman Sachs and some current and former staff, claiming large amounts were stolen when the bank arranged bond issues for 1MDB.

But the two sides agreed to a $3.9 billion settlement last week in exchange for charges being dropped.

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Agencies
September 13,2020

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Beijing, Sept 13: As the deadline for ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, to sell its US business inches closer, the Chinese government on Saturday said the Donald Trump administration's deadline is tantamount to "coercive robbery".

The US President has categorically said that he will not extend the September 20 deadline for China-based ByteDance to sell the US business of TikTok or face the complete ban.

"The tricks of economic bullying and political manipulation that the US played on non-American companies are tantamount to coercive robbery," said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Xinhua news agency reported.

The business sales talk of TikTok in the US has hit roadblock after China's update of the technology export rules. The update covers Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies used by ByteDance.

China last month updated the list of technologies that are subject to export bans. The new list, released jointly by China's Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Science and Technology, added 23 items to export restrictions while technical parameters of 21 items were revised.

The new update in the export rules cover restrictions on technologies such as text analysis, content recommendation and voice-recognition. The technologies on the list cannot be exported without approval from authorities in China.

ByteDance had said that "the company will strictly abide" by the new export rules imposed by China.

Several US companies including Walmart/Microsoft and Oracle are in the fray to buy TikTok's US operations, which is touted in the range of $20 billion-$30 billion.

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Agencies
September 26,2020

 

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Washington, Sept 27: The overall number of global coronavirus cases has topped 32.7 million, while the deaths have increased to more than 992,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

As of Sunday morning, the total number of cases stood at 32,746,134 and the fatalities rose to 992,946, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US is the worst-hit country with the world's highest number of cases and deaths at 7,077,450 and 204,485, respectively, according to the CSSE.

ndia comes in the second place in terms of cases at 5,903,932, while the country's death toll soared to 93,379.

The other top 15 countries with the maximum amount of cases are Brazil (4,717,991), Russia (1,138,509), Colombia (806,038), Peru (794,584), Mexico (726,431), Spain (716,481), Argentina (702,484), South Africa (669,498), France (552,454), Chile (455,979), Iran (443,086), the UK (431,816), Bangladesh (357,873), Iraq (345,969) and Saudi Arabia (332,790), the CSSE figures showed.

Brazil currently accounts for the second highest number of fatalities at 141,406.

The countries with a death toll above 10,000 are Mexico (76,243), the UK (42,060), Italy (35,818), Peru (32,037), France (31,675), Spain (31,232), Iran (25,394), Colombia (25,296), Russia (20,140), South Africa (16,376), Argentina (15,543), Chile (12,591), Ecuador (11,236) and Indonesia (10,308).

donesia (10,218).

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Agencies
September 14,2020

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New Delhi, Sept 14: In a stunning revelation, a Chinese virologist has claimed that the coronavirus was created in a government-controlled laboratory in Wuhan, the original epicentre of the outbreak and offered scientific evidence to back her claims.

In an exclusive conversation with 'Loose Women', a British talk show, Dr Li-Meng Yan, the scientist said she was assigned to investigate "new pneumonia" in Wuhan. She said that she discovered a cover-up operation regarding coronavirus during her investigation.

Dr Li-Meng, who specialised in virology and immunology at the Hong Kong School of Public Health, said she conducted two researches on new pneumonia in China first between December and early January and the second one in mid-January, before fleeing to the US from Hong Kong.

"I decided to report this development to my supervisor, who is also a World Health Organisation (WHO) consultant. There was no response from the WHO and my supervisor. Everyone warned me that do not cross the right line and keep silence or else I would be made to disappear," she said.

The virologist said she had expected her supervisor to "do the right thing on behalf of the Chinese government and WHO".

Several countries, including the US, have criticised both China and WHO for covering-up the severity of the coronavirus outbreak.

Dr Li-Meng revealed she had contacted a famous Chinese YouTuber in the US. The expose, which was in Chinese, said that the Chinese Communist Party was covering up the COVID-19 crisis and there was a human-to-human transmission of the virus.

She also said that coronavirus is a "high-mutant virus" which will become an outbreak soon and the seafood market in Wuhan and the virus's intermediate hosts were just a "smokescreen".

The doctor then made the stunning revelation that the "virus is not from nature" and it was from a "laboratory controlled by the Chinese government in Wuhan".

"This is based on the China Military Institute that discovered and owned some bad coronavirus named CC45 and ZXC41. Based on that, after lab modification becomes a novel virus," she said.

Asked if she had scientific proof about the revelation, Dr Li-Meng said she has intelligence from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local doctors and other people across China. "These are the truths and all other things were covered up," she added.

The virologist said she is working on a scientific report with a small group of top scientists across the world and will be published soon.

"There are two reports. The first one will come in several days and it will tell the people all the evidence," she said, adding that the coronavirus is a highly contagious and a dangerous virus.

Asked whether she was worried about her safety after fleeing Hong Kong, the doctor remarked she wanted to deliver the message as soon as possible to the world.

"It was very scary at that time. But I had to do it because I am a doctor and I cannot see it happen. If I do not tell the truth to the world, I will be regretful. So, this foundation which is based in New York helped me to secretly leave Hong Kong. They help people who are against the Chinese government," she added.

Giving an insight into her unpublished scientific report, Dr Li-Meng said anyone, even those who do not have knowledge of biology, can read it.

"The genome sequence is like our human fingerprint. So, based on this you can recognise and identify this thing. 
So, I used the evidence existing in the genome sequence of Sars-CoV-2 to tell people why this came from China and why they are the only ones who made it," she stated.

She further said, "You can check, identify and verify it by yourself. It is a critical thing for us to know the origins of the virus. If not, it will be life-threatening for everyone."

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