Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

28 July 2020

Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak was on Tuesday found guilty of multiple criminal charges in the first of five trials over his role in the multibillion-dollar 1MDB corruption scandal, in a landmark court ruling. High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali sentenced Najib to 12 years in prison and a RM210 million fine for the abuse of power offence; 10 years each for the three counts of committing criminal breach of trust; and 10 years each for the three money laundering offences.

He ordered the sentences to run concurrently.

Najib will appeal against this verdict..

The verdict by Justice Mohamad Nazlan Ghazali is expected to have major consequences on politics in Malaysia. In a country where the plundering of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund during Najib’s 2009-2018 tenure in power, remains the key issue dividing political camps.

Justice Nazlan said that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. “I therefore find the accused guilty and convict the accused on all seven charges,” he said in his judgment, delivered over two hours.

The case involves some US$9.8 million that flowed from former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International to his personal bank accounts. Along with one charge of abuse of power, Najib was fighting three charges of money laundering and three charges of criminal breach of trust.

During the trial, Najib’s defense team sought to pin blame on others, including the fugitive financier Low Taek Jho alias Jho Low, Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, the former SRC International chief executive currently on the run, and Joanna Yu, a bank relationships manager who oversaw Najib’s personal bank account.

Najib’s defense claimed he was misled by these parties into believing the misappropriated funds in the account were political donations from the late Saudi king Abdullah Abdulaziz al-Saud.

But Justice Nazlane did not buy this argument. He said that the accused could have easily got on to a phone and verified if the donation was really from the Saudi Royal family instead of believing in Jho Low’s words.

Low, who is subject to outstanding arrest warrants in Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore, claims the allegations were politically motivated by Mahathir Mohamad’s Pakatan Harapan administration, which took power after the 2018 elections before being toppled in February.

In a separate case, Najib was also ordered last week by a court to settle US$397.41 million in unpaid taxes over seven years dating to his time in office.

Najib is the eldest son of Malaysia’s revered second prime minister, the late Abdul Razak Hussein.

In a separate case Goldman Sachs has reached a deal with Malaysia that would see Malaysia drop all criminal charges against the bank in exchange for US$3.9 billion of reparations for its role in raising money for the troubled sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

The ministry of finance said the deal includes a cash settlement of US$2.5 billion paid to Malaysia, and at least another US$1.4 billion to come from seized 1MDB assets being returned with the help of the US Department of Justice and Goldman Sachs.
South China Morning Post reported today.