28th July, 2020
Malaysia’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 12 years in jail on Tuesday.
High court judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali sentenced Najib to 12 years and a fine of 210 million ringgit ($49 million) on a charge of abuse of power.
It was the first trial over a multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB that stretched to the Gulf states and Hollywood.
It was also a test case for the nation’s resolve to stamp out corruption, which could have big political implications.
Najib, 67, also received 10 years in jail on each of three charges of criminal breach of trust and three charges of money laundering.
The court found him guilty for illegally receiving nearly $10 million from SRC International, a former unit of the state fund.
“After considering all evidence in this trial, I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Mohamad Nazlan said.
He ordered the jail terms to run concurrently.
The judge allowed a request by Najib’s lawyers to delay the jail sentence and the financial penalty, but asked Najib to post additional bail and report to a police station twice a month.
Najib had pleaded not guilty, and said he would appeal the verdict in Malaysia’s Federal Court if convicted.
The verdict could potentially be partially or fully overturned by the higher court on appeal, though that could take years.
The nearly $10 million in the SRC case is a fraction of the funds Najib was alleged to have misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the state fund.
Prosecutors said 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.
Najib had led the country for almost a decade before losing the 2018 election.
U.S. and Malaysian authorities said a total of $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 super yacht 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 went into war-chests for Najib’s election campaigns.
Former U.S. attorney-general Jeff Sessions described the scandal as kleptocracy at its worst.
Allegations of corruption over 1MDB have hung over Najib for more than five years. But the criminal charges came only after his election defeat in 2018 when his successor Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations.
Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with Singapore’s Institute of International Affairs, said the verdict was significant.
“It is the first time a prime minister has been convicted of essentially corruption related charges and it testifies to the level of corruption in Malaysia,” he said.