KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A court sentenced former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to serve up to 12 years in prison after convicting him of crimes related to the billionaire looting of a state investment fund that brought down his government in a shocking electoral recall two years ago.
Najib was calm and stone-faced when he became the first Malaysian leader to be convicted. He has vowed to appeal the verdict and took an oath in brief comments from the dock prior to sentencing that he had no knowledge of the graft.
Judge Mohamad Nazlan Ghazali sentenced Najib to 12 years in prison on one count of abuse of power, 10 years each on three counts of criminal breach of trust and 10 years each on three counts of money laundering, as well as a fine. of 210 million ringgit ($ 48.4 million). But he ordered the sentences to be carried out simultaneously, meaning that Najib will face up to 12 years in prison.
The ruling in the first of its five corruption trials came five months after the Malaysian Najib party returned to government as the largest bloc in an alliance that seized power from the reformist government that ousted Najib in 2018.
Analysts said the ruling would bolster the prosecution’s case in the other Najib trials and would signal to the business community that Malaysia’s legal system has the strength to deal with international financial crimes. But others warned that the ruling could be reversed and his political party remains in office.
“I find the accused guilty and find him guilty on all seven charges,” Judge Mohamad Nazlan Ghazali said after spending two hours reading an elaborate opinion.
After the court resumed in the afternoon, Najib’s lawyers advocated a light sentence. The defense said it was “paralyzed” by the judge’s refusal to delay the sentencing arguments until next week. Prosecutors said the case had tarnished the country as a kleptocracy and sought a deterrent sentence to remind senior public officials that “no one is above the law.”
Speaking from the pier, Najib described his accomplishments during his nine-year term and swore in Arabic with God as a witness that he was unaware of the 42 million ringgit ($ 9.8 million) channeled into his bank accounts by SRC International, a former 1MDB Unit.
“I did not demand the 42 million, I did not plan the 42 million, nor did they offer me the 42 million. There has been no evidence or witness to this. And I also like to say that I am not aware of the 42 million, “Najib insisted.
Some of Najib’s supporters outside the courthouse cried when they heard the verdict, while others chanted “free bossku” and “long-lived bossku”. The nickname “my boss” means was coined for Najib in his social media campaign to reinvent himself as a class leader-worker.
Najib, 67, faces 15 to 20 years with heavier fines for each of the seven charges and has promised to fight to the end. He said he was tricked by corrupt bankers and that the case against him is political.
“I want justice. I want to clear my name, “he wrote on Facebook Monday night.” After this, we will go to the Court of Appeals. I’m ready. “Kindred of one of Malaysia’s most prominent in-laws, he faces 42 charges in five separate trials and could face years in prison.
The current trial involved one count of abuse of power, three counts of criminal breach of trust and three counts of money laundering.
The judge agreed with prosecutors that Najib had “general control” of SRC, did not refute the charges against him, and that prosecutors had established beyond a reasonable doubt that Najib misappropriated money for his own use.