Najib's former deputy hit with new graft charges in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) –


Malaysia's former deputy premier under scandal-plagued ex-leader Najib Razak was hit with seven fresh corruption charges Wednesday for allegedly receiving about $3 million in bribes.

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, now an opposition leader who was a key figure in the former regime, has now been charged with a total of 54 counts of corruption since his long-ruling coalition lost power last year.

The latest charges relate to allegations that he received Sg$4.2 million ($3.1 million) in 2017 and 2018 from a company in exchange for extending their contract to issue visas.

Ahmad Zahid pleaded not guilty to all counts during a court appearance in Kuala Lumpur and was freed on bail. If found guilty, the 66-year-old faces a lengthy jail term.

He has denied all previous charges levelled at him.

He is also set to face a further 33 charges in court Thursday for allegedly receiving $10 million in kickbacks, according to the anti-graft agency.

The veteran politician is president of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the lynchpin in a coalition of parties that ruled Malaysia from independence in 1957 until their shock defeat in May polls.

But he has been placed on leave since he was first charged in October.

Najib has also been arrested and charged over allegations he oversaw the plundering of state fund 1MDB, a scandal that played a major part in the election defeat.

He has been on trial over the allegations since April.

US authorities say more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from the fund and spent on everything from yachts to artwork.