Malaysia's former PM Najib Razak gets 12-year jail in 1MDB case
29 July 2020
Malaysia’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 12 years in jail on Tuesday, in the first trial over a multi-billion-dollar scandal at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the state fund.
High court judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali sentenced Najib to 12 years and a fine of 210 million ringgit ($49 million) for abuse of power, in a money scam that stretched to the Gulf states and Hollywood.
Najib, 67, also received 10 years in jail on each of three charges of criminal breach of trust and three charges of money laundering for illegally receiving nearly $10 million from SRC International, a former unit of the state fund.
The judge ordered the jail terms to run concurrently.
The guilty verdict for Najib caps dramatic turn in fortunes in a case widely seen as a test of the nation’s resolve to stamp out corruption and which could have major political implications.
Najib has faced allegations of misappropriation of state funds for over five years during his rule, but the criminal charges came only after his election defeat in 2018 when his successor Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations.
Najib had pleaded not guilty but Judge Mohamad Nazlan said, “After considering all evidence in this trial, I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The judge allowed a request by Najib’s lawyers to delay the jail sentence and the fine, but asked Najib to post additional bail and report to a police station twice a month.
Najib said he would appeal the verdict in Malaysia’s Federal Court. The verdict could potentially be partially or fully overturned, though that could take years.
The nearly $10 million in the SRC case is believed to be only a fraction of the funds Najib is alleged to have misappropriated from 1MDB.
Prosecutors say more than $1 billion of 1MDB funds made its way into Najib’s personal accounts, over which he faces a total of 42 criminal charges.
US and Malaysian authorities say $4.5 billion is believed to have been stolen from 1MDB, a fund Najib founded to promote economic development, and used by his associates to buy art, a superyacht and fund the `Wolf of Wall Street’ movie.
Prosecutors have also said $27 million was used to buy a pink diamond necklace for Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, and some of the money was used to fund Najib’s election campaigns.
Najib’s lawyers had said he was misled by Malaysian financier Jho Low and other 1MDB officials into believing that the funds banked in his accounts were donated by the Saudi royal family. Low has denied wrongdoing.
Judge Mohamad Nazlan said it was “far-fetched” to believe Najib could have been misled by Low and asked why he never questioned Low’s claim that the money was a donation.
During the trial, Najib told the court he never demanded or planned for the 42 million ringgit in his account. “There has been no evidence or witnesses to say so,” he said.
Politicians and others who had raised concerns about 1MDB years ago welcomed the verdict. Najib’s party, which returned to power in February as part of an alliance led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, on Tuesday said the government respected the verdict and was committed to the rule of law.
But, there is a danger of the guilty verdict prompting Najib’s supporters to withdraw support for the government, which has a razor-thin majority.
Najib can remain a lawmaker but will be disqualified if his conviction stands after all legal avenues have been exhausted.