Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was sentenced to serve up to 12 years in prison after a Kuala Lumpur court found him guilty of corruption in the first of several cases involving the alleged theft of billions of dollars from the state fund, 1MDB.
Tuesday’s ruling makes Najib the first Malaysian leader to be convicted of corruption.
But the 67-year-old man remains free while Judge Mohamad Nazlan Ghazali issued a suspension order on the execution of Najib’s sentence, pending an appeal.
“I am surely not satisfied with the result,” Najib told reporters as he left the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
“But within our system, the superior court is the first court and the decision was made only by a judge. We have the benefit of an appeal,” he added, and promised “to continue the effort to clear my name.”
The guilty verdict against Najib relates to his role in diverting an estimated 42 million ringgit ($ 9.8 million) from SRC International, a unit of 1MDB, into his personal bank accounts. The judge had found the former prime minister guilty of all seven charges brought against him.
“It seems to me that the prosecution has successfully proved his case beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, I find the accused guilty and find him guilty on all seven charges,” said Mohamad.
Najib of Malaysia is guilty of all charges in a graft case linked to 1MDB (3:27)
He then ordered Najib to pay a fine of 210 million ringgit ($ 49 million), and gave him 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 for three charges. money laundering.
But the judge also ordered that the sentences be carried out simultaneously, meaning that Najib will serve 12 years in prison.
The conviction comes just six days after the High Court ordered Najib to pay the government up to 1.69 billion ringgit ($ 400 million) in unpaid taxes and fines, spanning the years 2011 to 2017.
Before the sentencing, Datuk V Sithambaram, the chief prosecutor in the case, had called for a ruling that serves “as a precedent for all public officials that no one is above the law.”
Najib then took the pier to defend himself, insisting that he was unaware of the SRC payment in his bank accounts. “I did not demand the 42 million or offer it to me. There are no witnesses who can say that,” he said.
Several of his supporters gathered outside the Kuala Lumpur High Court crying openly when news of the convictions came, while others shouted, “Long live my boss!” Some also condemned the judge’s verdict as “political revenge.”
The crowd outside the Kuala Lumpur High Court after the arrival of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib, before his verdict on the bribe on Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/njmnZa7kV4
– Ted Regency تِد (@tedregencia) July 28, 2020
When Najib left the court building, many cheered and shouted his name.
So far, Najib has faced three separate trials regarding 1MDB.
The United States Department of Justice alleges that $ 4.5 billion in government money had been drained from 1MDB during Najib’s time as prime minister.
Prosecutors say Najib played a direct role and instructed to deposit money into his bank accounts, which were then used for political financing, the purchase of luxury goods and renovations on his property.
Sokongan padu ahli UMNO dan rakyat kpd DS @NajibRazak dari seluruh negara. pic.twitter.com/EARsgJsxpj
– Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (@DrZahidHamidi) July 28, 2020
Former prime minister’s chief defense lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, had argued that Najib “was not part of the conspiracy” to defraud the government, blaming Malaysian financial fugitive Jho Low.
The second case against Najib covers several charges, including 21 money laundering charges involving $ 550 million directly from 1MDB, while the third case, which started on November 18, relates to the alleged abuse of power and the cover-up of an audit report on 1MDB.
Two more trials are pending.
The scandal at 1MDB fueled massive protests and led to the fall of the Najib government in May 2018.
Najib has remained free on bail despite charges against him, criticizing the policies of his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad and the coalition that replaced him.
Mahathir himself was forced to leave the job in March this year, after a group of disgruntled former members of his coalition, backed by the Najib party, UMNO, pledged their support for current Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.