Wife of Malaysian ex-leader hit with 2 new graft charges

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The wife of Malaysian ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak was charged Thursday with seeking and receiving bribes related to a 1.25 billion ringgit ($299 million) solar energy project, in addition to earlier graft charges brought against her last month.

A former minister and her former aide were also charged with graft, in the latest prosecution of officials from Najib’s administration.

Rosmah Mansor pleaded not guilty to two charges of corruption linked to a project to supply and install solar energy panels in 369 schools in eastern Sarawak state on Borneo. She was accused of soliciting 187.5 million ringgit ($44.8 million) in 2016 from a manager at Jepak Holdings for her help in securing the contract and later receiving 1.5 million ringgit ($358,400) in 2017.

The Education Ministry awarded Jepak the contract without any open tender.

The charges came over a month after Rosmah, 66, pleaded not guilty to laundering illegal proceeds and tax evasion in a multibillion-dollar graft scandal that led to her husband’s shocking electoral loss in May.

Rosmah’s former aide, Rizal Mansor, was also charged with requesting and receiving bribes for himself and on behalf of Rosmah for the same project. He pleaded not guilty to four counts of corruption, including allegedly receiving 5 million ringgit ($2 million) on Rosmah’s behalf and another 500,000 ringgit ($119,400) for himself as a reward for helping Jepak obtain the contract.

In a separate case, former Federal Territories Minister Adnan Mansor pleaded not guilty to receiving bribes worth 3 million ringgit ($716,400) related to several land deals in Kuala Lumpur. The three defendants are not related.

Rosmah, who was escorted by her husband Najib at the courthouse, was calm and waved to reporters but didn’t speak. The three were released on bail.

Najib, his former deputy and several high-ranking former officials have already been charged with corruption. Najib has accused the new government of seeking political vengeance.

The May 9 election outcome ushered in the first change of power since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, whose alliance ousted Najib’s long-ruling coalition, has said the court cases are “not about revenge” but are based on the rule of law and that those accused will be given fair trials.

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