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Malaysian ex-PM Najib combative ahead of 1MDB graft trial

KUALA LUMPUR: From appearing in an R&B music video and trolling social media to vilify the new government, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been combative before the start of his graft trial, linked to the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB state investment fund that has battered the country’s standing abroad.The trial starting Tuesday…

Malaysian ex-PM Najib combative ahead of 1MDB graft trial

KUALA LUMPUR: From appearing in an R&B music video and trolling social media to vilify the new government, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been combative before the start of his graft trial, linked to the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB state investment fund that has battered the country’s standing abroad.The trial starting Tuesday comes nine months after Najib’s spectacular election defeat, spurred by voters’ furor over the 1MDB scandal that is being investigated in the US and several other countries for alleged cross-border money laundering and embezzlement.US investigators say more than $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB by associates of Najib between 2009 and 2014 and the ill-gotten gains were laundered through layers of bank accounts in the US and other countries to finance Hollywood films and buy hotels, a luxury yacht, art works, jewelry and other extravagances. Some $700 million from the fund that Najib set up for Malaysia’s economic development allegedly landed in his own bank account.One of only a few Southeast Asian leaders to be arraigned after losing office, Najib has denied any wrongdoing. He is charged with 42 counts of criminal breach of trust, graft, abuse of power and money laundering in one of Malaysia’s biggest criminal trials. His wife Rosmah Mansor also has been charged with money laundering and tax evasion linked to 1MDB. She has pleaded not guilty and her trial has not been set.The first of Najib’s multiple criminal trials begins Tuesday but instead of lying low, Najib has fought back with a political makeover on social media that aims to transform his image from an out-of-touch elitist to a leader for the working class.A Malay-language catchphrase translating to “What’s to be ashamed about, my boss?” was coined while he was campaigning in a by-election last month and has become his new rally cry. Expensive tailored suits have been replaced by hoodies and jeans. A picture Najib posted on social media showing himself posing on a Yamaha motorcycle with his new “’no-shame” meme resonated with many Malay youths disenchanted by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s new government.In another offbeat music video that he uploaded on social media, Najib slammed the new government as “liars” and crooned about the “slander and revenge” against him in a Malay-language rendition of the 1970’s R&B soul hit “Kiss and Say Goodbye” by the American group, the Manhattans.He posts a dozen messages daily on social media, mostly mocking the new government and its policies, and touching on the plight of the needy.Last month while visiting vendors at a wet market, Najib jeered government leaders on Facebook: “Let the ministers sleep on this Saturday morning.”Bridget Welsh, political science professor at the John Cabot University in Rome, said Najib is seeking to tap into anger from those who were displaced politically and those disappointed by the new government.“There will actually be two battles — that in the courtroom and that in the public — in which Najib has used a flush-funded social media machine to build support,” said Welsh, a Southeast Asia expert. “He has fanned two sentiments — supposed political victimization and racial insecurity — stemming from the fact that Malay chauvinists do not have the same level of political power in the new government.”Najib’s online campaign isn’t likely to extend beyond his Malay political base but it could split Malaysia along racial lines, she said. Ethnic Malays makeup about 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million people, followed by large Chinese and Indian minorities.Despite his smiles and cool public persona, the patrician Najib — whose father and uncle were Malaysia’s second and third prime ministers respectively — could face years in prison if convicted.Once a towering figure in politics and literally beyond the law, Najib has fallen from grace swiftly since his historic electoral loss on May 9, which led to the first change of government since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.The new government soon after it took office reopened investigations into 1MDB that had been stifled under Najib. He and his wife were barred from leaving the country and grilled by anti-graft officials, and their properties were raided. Truckloads of luggage stashed with cash, jewelry and hundreds of expensive designer bags worth a staggering 1.1 billion ringgit ($270 million) were seized from their home and other properties.The trials for both Najib and his wife will be closely watched but are expected to be long-lasting as defense lawyers could appeals up to the top court. Najib has a team of top lawyers, who are appealing Monday to delay his trial.Farhan Read, one of Najib’s lawyers, told The Associated Press that the defense team wants a deferment to resolve a technical issue that could impair the validity of the hearing. He said Najib’s trials are scheduled back-to-back and that it was unprecedented for a person to be hit with 42 charges.

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Women cleared of defamation in French sexual misconduct case

RIVERSIDE: A California couple were handed life sentences Friday after admitting to imprisoning and torturing 12 of their 13 children in a grisly “House of Horrors” case that shocked the world.David Allen Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise Anna Turpin, 50, had pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts — including cruelty, false imprisonment, child abuse…

Women cleared of defamation in French sexual misconduct case

RIVERSIDE: A California couple were handed life sentences Friday after admitting to imprisoning and torturing 12 of their 13 children in a grisly “House of Horrors” case that shocked the world.David Allen Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise Anna Turpin, 50, had pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts — including cruelty, false imprisonment, child abuse and torture of their children aged three to 30 — and will serve at least 25 years before they are eligible for parole.In an emotionally wrenching hearing, several of the children professed continued love for their parents, who lived in the city of Perris, 70 miles (112 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles.“I never intended for any harm to come to my children. I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to cause them harm,” David Turpin told the court in the nearby city of Riverside, via a statement read out by his attorney.The case came to light last year when one of the children, aged 17, escaped through a window from the couple’s home and called the emergency services.Both Turpins fought back tears throughout the hearing, with Louise visually trembling as two of her own children came into court.“My parents took my whole life from me, but now I’m taking my life back,” one of the couple’s daughters said, while a son said he still loved his parents and had forgiven them.According to excerpts of the initial emergency call released during court proceedings, the escaped girl told the dispatcher two of her siblings were chained to beds so tightly that their skin was bruised.She struggled to tell the operator her home address, saying: “I’ve never been out. I don’t go out much.”She told responding officers that the house was so dirty she couldn’t breathe and that she and her siblings never took baths.“They chain us up if we do things we’re not supposed to,” she said. “Sometimes, my sisters wake up and start crying (because of the pain).”An officer who interviewed the teen after her escape said she was so emaciated that he first thought she was a child.He said the girl described being forced to sleep 20 hours a day and in the middle of the night eating a combination of lunch and dinner that most often consisted of peanut butter sandwiches, chips and microwaved food.One of the older children also told investigators that the couple would lock him and his siblings in cages as punishment and beat them with paddles.Since their rescue, the children have been in the care of child and adult protective services.The Turpins moved from Texas to California in 2010. Investigators have said it is unclear what prompted the abuse.Turpin professed his love for the youngsters before the sentence was pronounced, while his wife read her own statement, apologizing to her children and adding: “I only want the best for them. Their happiness is very important to me.”Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz told the Turpins their children’s lives had been permanently altered, by their “selfish, cruel and inhumane” actions.They were given credit for an early admission of guilt that spared their children the pain of testifying against them at trial.Turpin, an aerospace engineer, had registered as the principal of their purported home school program set up through the California Department of Education.But prosecutors said the enterprise was bogus, and accused Turpin of lying on forms filed with the state.Sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Campos testified in a preliminary hearing about his interview with the initial escapee, recalling how the girl’s hair was filthy and her skin was caked with dirt.He said the girl admitted “being scared to death” about fleeing but felt desperate to get out and leapt from an open window.Campos said the teenager had been planning an escape for two years and was ultimately able to procure a mobile phone discarded by her older brother.She used it to snap pictures of her younger sisters — all of whom were severely malnourished — chained to beds.The girl’s only exercise was pacing back and forth in the room she shared with her two younger sisters, according to the deputy.District Attorney Mike Hestrin said the victims were allowed to shower only once a year.

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US ‘House of Horrors’ parents jailed for torture, abuse

RIVERSIDE: A California couple were handed life sentences Friday after admitting to imprisoning and torturing 12 of their 13 children in a grisly “House of Horrors” case that shocked the world.David Allen Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise Anna Turpin, 50, had pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts — including cruelty, false imprisonment, child abuse…

US ‘House of Horrors’ parents jailed for torture, abuse

RIVERSIDE: A California couple were handed life sentences Friday after admitting to imprisoning and torturing 12 of their 13 children in a grisly “House of Horrors” case that shocked the world.David Allen Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise Anna Turpin, 50, had pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts — including cruelty, false imprisonment, child abuse and torture of their children aged three to 30 — and will serve at least 25 years before they are eligible for parole.In an emotionally wrenching hearing, several of the children professed continued love for their parents, who lived in the city of Perris, 70 miles (112 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles.“I never intended for any harm to come to my children. I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to cause them harm,” David Turpin told the court in the nearby city of Riverside, via a statement read out by his attorney.The case came to light last year when one of the children, aged 17, escaped through a window from the couple’s home and called the emergency services.Both Turpins fought back tears throughout the hearing, with Louise visually trembling as two of her own children came into court.“My parents took my whole life from me, but now I’m taking my life back,” one of the couple’s daughters said, while a son said he still loved his parents and had forgiven them.According to excerpts of the initial emergency call released during court proceedings, the escaped girl told the dispatcher two of her siblings were chained to beds so tightly that their skin was bruised.She struggled to tell the operator her home address, saying: “I’ve never been out. I don’t go out much.”She told responding officers that the house was so dirty she couldn’t breathe and that she and her siblings never took baths.“They chain us up if we do things we’re not supposed to,” she said. “Sometimes, my sisters wake up and start crying (because of the pain).”An officer who interviewed the teen after her escape said she was so emaciated that he first thought she was a child.He said the girl described being forced to sleep 20 hours a day and in the middle of the night eating a combination of lunch and dinner that most often consisted of peanut butter sandwiches, chips and microwaved food.One of the older children also told investigators that the couple would lock him and his siblings in cages as punishment and beat them with paddles.Since their rescue, the children have been in the care of child and adult protective services.The Turpins moved from Texas to California in 2010. Investigators have said it is unclear what prompted the abuse.Turpin professed his love for the youngsters before the sentence was pronounced, while his wife read her own statement, apologizing to her children and adding: “I only want the best for them. Their happiness is very important to me.”Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz told the Turpins their children’s lives had been permanently altered, by their “selfish, cruel and inhumane” actions.They were given credit for an early admission of guilt that spared their children the pain of testifying against them at trial.Turpin, an aerospace engineer, had registered as the principal of their purported home school program set up through the California Department of Education.But prosecutors said the enterprise was bogus, and accused Turpin of lying on forms filed with the state.Sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Campos testified in a preliminary hearing about his interview with the initial escapee, recalling how the girl’s hair was filthy and her skin was caked with dirt.He said the girl admitted “being scared to death” about fleeing but felt desperate to get out and leapt from an open window.Campos said the teenager had been planning an escape for two years and was ultimately able to procure a mobile phone discarded by her older brother.She used it to snap pictures of her younger sisters — all of whom were severely malnourished — chained to beds.The girl’s only exercise was pacing back and forth in the room she shared with her two younger sisters, according to the deputy.District Attorney Mike Hestrin said the victims were allowed to shower only once a year.

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In unflattering detail, Mueller report reveals Trump actions to impede inquiry

WASHINGTON: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his inquiry into Russia’s role in the 2016 US election described in extensive and sometimes unflattering detail how President Donald Trump tried to impede the probe, raising questions about whether he committed the crime of obstruction of justice. The release of the 448-page report on Thursday after a…

In unflattering detail, Mueller report reveals Trump actions to impede inquiry

WASHINGTON: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his inquiry into Russia’s role in the 2016 US election described in extensive and sometimes unflattering detail how President Donald Trump tried to impede the probe, raising questions about whether he committed the crime of obstruction of justice.
The release of the 448-page report on Thursday after a 22-month investigation marked a milestone in Trump’s tumultuous presidency and inflamed partisan passions ahead of his 2020 re-election bid.
Democrats said the report contained disturbing evidence of wrongdoing by Trump that could fuel congressional investigations, but there was no immediate indication they would try to remove him from office through impeachment.
Mueller built an extensive case indicating the Republican president had committed obstruction of justice but stopped short of concluding he had committed a crime, though he did not exonerate the president. Mueller noted that Congress has the power to address whether Trump violated the law.
“The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law,” the report stated.
Mueller also unearthed “numerous links” between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign and said the president’s team “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” referring to hacked Democratic emails.
But Mueller, a former FBI director, concluded there was not enough evidence to establish that Trump’s campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow.
Trump appeared to be in a celebratory mood, saying at a White House event with wounded US troops he was “having a good day” following the report’s release, adding, “It’s called no collusion, no obstruction.” Trump, whose legal team called the report “a total victory,” has long described Mueller’s inquiry as a “witch hunt.”
Trump headed to his resort in Florida for the weekend, and on landing on Thursday night told a crowd of well wishers at the airport: “Game over folks, now it’s back to work.”
The report, with some portions blacked out to protect sensitive information, provided fresh details of how Trump tried to force Mueller’s ouster, directed members of his administration to publicly vouch for his innocence and dangled a pardon to a former aide to try to prevent him from cooperating with the special counsel.
“The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” the report stated.
The report said that when former Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump in May 2017 that the Justice Department was appointing a special counsel to look into allegations that his campaign colluded with Russia, Trump slumped back in his chair and said, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f***ed.”
Attorney General William Barr told a news conference Mueller had detailed “10 episodes involving the president and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense.” Barr concluded last month after receiving a confidential copy of Mueller’s report that Trump had not actually committed a crime.
Trump was wary of FBI scrutiny of his campaign and him personally, the report said. “The evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the president personally that the president could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns,” the report stated.
Any impeachment effort would start in the Democratic-led House of Representatives, but Trump’s removal would require the support of the Republican-led Senate — an unlikely outcome. Many Democrats steered clear of impeachment talk on Thursday, although a prominent liberal congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, embraced the idea.
“Many know I take no pleasure in discussions of impeachment. I didn’t campaign on it, & rarely discuss it unprompted,” she said on Twitter. “But the report squarely puts this on our doorstep.”
The House, when it voted to impeach President Bill Clinton in 1998, included obstruction of justice as one of the charges. The Senate ultimately decided not to remove Clinton from office.
The Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, said he would issue subpoenas to obtain the unredacted Mueller report and asked Mueller to testify before the panel by May 23.
Nadler told reporters in New York Mueller probably wrote the report with the intent of providing Congress a road map for future action, but the congressman said it was too early to talk about impeachment.
“Mueller’s report paints a damning portrait of lies that appear to have materially impaired the investigation, a body of evidence of improper contacts with a foreign adversary, and serious allegations about how President Trump sought to obstruct a legitimate, and deeply important, counterintelligence investigation,” the Democratic chairs of six House committees said in a statement.
Election meddlingThe inquiry laid bare what the special counsel and US intelligence agencies have described as a Russian campaign of hacking and propaganda to sow discord in the United States, denigrate 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and boost Trump, the Kremlin’s preferred candidate. Russia has denied election interference.In analyzing whether Trump obstructed justice, Mueller looked at a series of actions by Trump, including his attempts to remove Mueller and limit the scope of his probe and efforts to prevent the public from knowing about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York between senior campaign officials and Russians.In June 2017, Trump directed White House counsel Don McGahn to tell the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, Rod Rosenstein, that Mueller had conflicts of interest and must be removed, the report said. McGahn did not carry out the order. McGahn was home on a Saturday that month when Trump called him at least twice.“You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod,” McGahn recalled the president as saying, according to the report.House Judiciary Democrat Jamie Raskin pointed to Trump’s effort to get McGahn to fire Mueller and then lie about being told to do so as an area of interest for lawmakers, and said McGahn and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be valuable witnesses as the committee moves forward.“There are these dramatic episodes of presidential attempts to interfere with the Mueller investigation, and I think people would like to hear from a number of officials involved. White House counsel McGahn jumps out as an important witness,” he told Reuters.It also said there was “substantial evidence” Trump fired James Comey as FBI director in May 2017 due to his “unwillingness to publicly state that the president was not personally under investigation.” The FBI headed the inquiry at the time.Mueller cited “some evidence” suggesting Trump knew about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s controversial calls with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office, but evidence was “inconclusive” and could not be used to establish intent to obstruct.The report said Trump directed former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to ask Sessions to say the Russia investigation was “very unfair.”Barr, a Trump appointee, seemed to offer cover for Trump’s actions by saying the report acknowledges “there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.”“President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office and the conduct of some of his associates,” Barr said.Mueller’s team did not issue a subpoena to force Trump to give an interview to the special counsel because it would have created a “substantial delay” at a late stage in the investigation, the report said. Trump refused an interview and eventually provided only written answers.The report said Mueller accepted the longstanding Justice Department view that a sitting president cannot be indicted on criminal charges, while still recognizing that a president can be criminally investigated.The report listed 14 criminal referrals for investigation by US prosecutors but 12 of those were fully blacked out because they are open investigations.Mueller said evidence he collected indicates Trump intended to encourage his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, not to cooperate and that the evidence supports the idea that Trump wanted Manafort to believe he could receive a presidential pardon.The report said the special counsel’s team determined there was a “reasonable argument” that the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., violated campaign finance laws, but did not believe they could obtain a conviction.The report cited Trump’s repeated efforts to convince Sessions to resume oversight of the probe after he had recused himself because of his own prior contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

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