KUALA LUMPUR: After two years in trial, former Prime Minister Najib was found guilty by the Malaysian High Court on Tuesday on all counts brought against him and was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and a fine of $46.7 million.
The trial concerns the $10 million in funds deposited into his account from SRC International Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary company of the highly controversial Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
High Court Judge Nazlan Mohd Ghazali found the ex-PM and former finance minister guilty of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and corruption charges brought against him in 2018.
Najib, who was once untouchable, fell from grace after his ruling coalition lost the majority in the 13th general election in 2018.
In under two months after his electoral defeat, he was charged with multiple counts of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering involving RM42 million ($9.9 million) of SRC International funds in July 2018.
Ghazali, in his summary, said: “After considering all evidence in this trial, I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” adding: “I, therefore, find the accused guilty and convict the accused on all seven charges.”
The decision made by the Malaysian court today is the first judgement against Najib, who has been slapped with a variety of charges related to 1MDB.
Over the years, Najib has maintained his innocence, writing on his Facebook yesterday that he would continue his fight to “clear his name.”
“The money was paid to me by a private company that was itself paid by a subsidiary of SRC for CSR (corporate social responsibility). Whatever the verdict tomorrow is at the high court, this is not the end,” he said.
He added that should the verdict at the high court not turn in his favor, he would “bring the case to the Court of Appeal for a fair judgement by a panel of three judges and not one single judge like tomorrow’s (July 28, 2020) verdict.”
1MDB is a state investment fund which initially aimed to boost Malaysia’s investment portfolios and has since been the center of an extensive, international investigation involving billions of dollars in misappropriated funds.
In a finding by the US Department of Justice, it claimed that $4.5 billion was siphoned from the state fund between 2009 and 2014.
The money was laundered through multiple countries, including Singapore, Switzerland, and the US.
Malaysian and US officials concluded that the 1MDB funds were used by those in the know to buy exorbitant big-ticket items like luxurious jewels, a superyacht, a private jet, and to fund the Hollywood film “The Wolf of Wallstreet.”
The state fund was founded by Najib, who has been charged with 42 counts of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power.
Malaysian authorities had seized luxury goods and cash from properties linked to the former premier, worth up to $273 million.
Najib, however, claims that some items were gifts to his wife and daughter and that a royal family in the Gulf donated the funds.
Political analyst Azmi Hassan, from the Technology University of Malaysia, told Arab News that Najib and his defense team would no doubt file for an appeal, starting at the Court of Appeal.
“If that fails, then Najib can go up to the Federal Court, and since Malaysia doesn’t practice trial by jury, today’s decision is based on the judgement of the High Court judge,” Hassan said.
He added that the expected verdict might have led Najib to point out in his July 27 Facebook post that if he were to be found guilty, he would have more chance in the higher courts, where the Appeal Court has three judges and the federal court is comprised of a panel of five judges.
“In terms of political impact, I see the current government growing stronger since the perception is that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is taking a hands-off approach towards the trial,” Hassan said.
Other trials against Najib relating to the 1MDB scandal are still ongoing, with some dates scheduled for 2021.