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Malaysia ex-PM Najib gets 12 years jail over 1MDB

July 28, 2020

Najib faced 7 charges relating to money that went missing from a state development fund. Abuse of power and money laundering were some of the charges he faced. It's not the end of his legal troubles, and he will appeal.

Malaysia Najib Razak appears before court wearing a facemask
Image: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng

A court sentenced the former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak to 12 years jail, after finding him guilty of all seven charges. It is the first verdict to be handed down in a series of corruption trials related to state development fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohamad Nazlan Ghazali found Najib guilty of three counts of criminal breach of trust, three counts of money laundering, and one count of abuse of power. 

"After considering all evidence in this trial, I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt," Ghazali said after taking two hours to read out his ruling.

Najib told reporters after the verdict that he would appeal. 

"I am surely not satisfied with the result," he said. "This is definitely not the end of the world, because there's a process of appeal, and we hoped that we would be successful then." 

The charges are the first of 42 that Najib, who was prime minister between 2009 and 2018, is facing over five separate trials. They concern 42 million Malaysian ringgit ($9.5 million, €8.1 million) allegedly stolen from SRC International, a 1MDB company set up by Najib when he took office in 2009.

The judge ordered the jail terms to run concurrently, but Najib was granted a stay of his jail sentence. His lawyers had immediately sought this.

Ghazali increased his bail amount by 1 million Malaysian ringgit ($235,300, €200,916) that must be posted by Wednesday.

The former prime minister has said he was misled by rogue bankers, arguing that the case against him is political.

Read more: US probes Deutsche Bank over dealings with Malaysia's 1MDB fund

What is the 1MDB affair?

Najib set up 1MDB shortly after becoming prime minister in 2009 to ostensibly accelerate Malaysia's economic development.

But the fund accumulated billions in debt, and US investigators allege that at least $4.5 billion was stolen from it and laundered by Najib's associates to finance Hollywood films and buy hotels, a $250-million superyacht, jewelry and a Pablo Picasso painting.

More than $1 billion from the fund allegedly landed in Najib's bank accounts.

Najib's wife and several officials from his party and previous government have also been charged with graft.

Public outrage at the looting of the investment vehicle played a large part in the loss of Najib's long-ruling coalition in elections in 2018.

Read more: US Justice department charges Malaysian financier and Goldman Sachs bankers in massive fraud case

What's next for Najib?

The High Court on Monday announced July 2021 dates for another trial related to SRC International.

He is due back in court on August 3 for the next hearings in the biggest ongoing trial — over allegations he stole over $700 million in public money from 1MDB.

kmm/rc (AP, dpa, Reuters)