Paul Stadlen, who worked for Najib as a public relations consultant during his nine years in office, is facing two counts of money laundering of over $3m that was allegedly proceeds from illegal activities.
Stadlen is accused of overseeing transfers of the money to different companies between June 2014 and August 2015,
In a statement, Stadlen’s lawyers in London, Mishcon de Reya, issued a statement categorically denying the charges and accusing the Malaysian government of using Stadlen as part of their “political agenda” against Najib.
“Any charges will be strenuously resisted, as the case against him is politically motivated and in breach of natural justice,” said Kevin Gold, a partner at Mishcon de Reya.
“We are appalled by the actions of the Malaysian government, who today used the media to leak that Paul Stadlen will be charged in absentia, despite there being no such provision under Malaysian law.”
Najib is due to face trial for over 40 charges of corruption, money laundering and abuse of power, most connected to his role in the 1MDB scandal, which allegedly saw $4.5bn embezzled out of a Malaysian government fund which Najib set up and oversaw. Millions allegedly ended up in Najib’s bank account while the rest bankrolled a lavish international spending spree of Manhattan real estate, yachts, priceless artworks, celebrity parties and even a Hollywood film. Najib has denied all the charges. Najib’s first trial was due to start last week, but was postponed last minute on a technicality.
Stadlen was a controversial figure in Malaysia. He first started work for Najib in 2009 when the PR firm he worked for, Apco Worldwide, won a contract with the Malaysian government. When the contract ended in controversy over links to Israel, Stadlen worked briefly for FBC Media – a company which was recently linked to Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s convicted campaign manager – who were awarded multi-million dollar contracts by the prime minister’s office to promote Najib abroad.
This contract was severed and Stadlen then went to work directly for the prime minister’s office, promoting Najib’s agenda to the international media. In 2015, he was shrouded in scandal after his “party lifestyle” hit the headlines in Malaysia and a statement was issued by a minister declaring that Stadlen’s wages were not paid out of government funds.
Last year the Malaysian anti-corruption agency released a public statement that it was hoping to speak to Stadlen as part of its investigations into 1MDB.
The Guardian understands Stadlen left Malaysia in May last year, going first to Bangkok and then on to London.