Malaysia’s highest court on Tuesday upheld former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s corruption conviction and 12-year prison sentence linked to the looting of the state fund 1MDB. Najib’s loss on his final appeal means he will have to start serving his sentence immediately, becoming the first former prime minister to be jailed.
The Federal Court’s five-member panel said it unanimously found that the high court judge was correct in his judgment and that Najib’s appeal was “meritless.” The court upheld Najib’s conviction and sentence.
1MDB was a development fund that the former prime minister created shortly after taking power in 2009. The researchers claim that at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib’s associates. He was convicted in 2020 of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering for illegally receiving $9.4 million from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.
Najib, 69, has maintained his innocence and has been out on bail pending his appeals. Just before the court delivered its verdict, he stood in the dock to make a statement protesting the high court’s refusal last week to delay the appeal to allow its newly appointed lawyers to prepare for the case.
The former president said he felt he had been “wronged” and that his case had accelerated. He pointed out that a leaked verdict by the Federal Court had been posted on a website and said that if this was true, it would be a “judicial trial, misconduct of the first order”.
But Chief Justice Maimun Tuan Mat said the appeal hearings had ended because Najib’s lawyers refused to present new arguments to protest that they did not have more time to prepare. She then she read the verdict of the court.
Najib appeared in shock. He was immediately surrounded by his family and his supporters.
The verdict came after a series of attempts by the accused to prolong the case.
Earlier Tuesday, she tried to remove Maimun from the case, citing possible bias because her husband had made a negative Facebook post about her leadership shortly after he was ousted in the 2018 general election. But the judges dismissed Najib’s request.
Maimun, the first female Chief Justice of Malaysia who was appointed in 2019, has been attacked on social media by Najib’s supporters. Police arrested a man over the weekend in connection with death threats against Maimun. Hundreds of supporters of the former prime minister gathered outside the pitch in a show of support.
In addition, Najib faces three other trials and dozens of charges in this case of corruption of the sovereign wealth fund, which splashed former Goldman Sachs bankers accused of accepting bribes and laundering billions of dollars from 1MDB, according to a judicial investigation in the United States.
Among other things, former Goldman Sachs employees financed the production of Hollywood movies such as “The Wolf of Wall Street” and bought jewelry, luxury real estate and even a Jean-Michael Basquiat painting for $51 million.
The 1MDB scandal sparked investigations in the US and several other countries and led to the fall of the Najib government in the 2018 elections. The defendant faces a total of 42 charges in five separate trials linked to 1MDB, and his wife is also on trial on corruption charges.
Still, Najib remains politically influential. His United Malays National Organization leads the current government after defections by lawmakers led to the collapse of the reformist government that won the 2018 election.
(with information from AP and EFE)
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