Malaysia’s former first lady, Rosmah Mansor, was put on trial Wednesday for corruption for the first time since her husband lost power.
Mansor, known for making overseas shopping trips and owning vast collections of handbags and jewelry, sparked the anger of the populace in Malaysia as the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak was engulfed by allegations of corruption.
Her husband’s long-ruling coalition suffered a shock election defeat in 2018 in large part due to claims he and his officials plundered billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
Both Najib and his wife have since been hit with multiple charges over the looting of the investment vehicle, but Rosmah’s first trial centres on allegations she received bribes linked to a government project.
Prosecutors alleged that she pocketed 6.5 million ringgit ($1.6 million) for helping a company secure the project to provide solar power generators to schools on the Malaysian part of Borneo Island.
The 68-year-old is also accused of soliciting a further 187.5 million ringgit. Rosmah faces three counts of corruption for the offences, which allegedly took place in 2016 and 2017.
She denied all the charges as proceedings began at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
The former prime minister’s wife “occupied no official position. However, she wielded considerable influence by her own overbearing nature”, said prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram in his opening statement.
The trial was supposed to start Monday but was delayed after Rosmah was admitted to hospital complaining of neck pain. On Wednesday she arrived in a car followed by an ambulance, and limped into the courtroom.