April 3 (UPI) -- Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of corruption at his trial in Kuala Lumpur.
Prosecutors have charged Razak with criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering in connection with $14 million from SRC International, a former unit of the state-run 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB.
Razak answered the charges in an appearance Wednesday.
Authorities in Malaysia and the United States believe $731 million of the money was funneled to Razak's private bank accounts. The amount is a small part of what prosecutors actually think Razak, 65, actually received. The former leader has denied wrongdoing throughout his prosecution, saying the charges are politically motivated.
"Evidence will establish that the personal checks were issued for, among others, payment for renovation works carried out at [Razak's] residence at Jalan Langgak Duta and residence in Pekan, Pahang and ... component political parties," Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas said in court Wednesday.
Thomas argued that Razak wielded "near-absolute power" during his time as prime minister, between 2009 and 2018, and the former leader believed he was above the law.
Malaysian financier Jho Low, who's believed to be the mastermind behind the 1MDB case, faces charges in Malaysia and the United States. He is believed to be living and China, beyond the reach of U.S. and Malaysian authorities.
Malaysians voted Razak out of office last year in favor of rival Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Authorities in Malaysia have also filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs in the case, arguing it helped 1MDB raise more than $6 billion from investors through what they say were false and misleading statements. The U.S. investment firm has worked to distance itself from the case and has apologized for the role of a former partner who pleaded guilty to charges related to the scandal.