World

Guilty verdict caps dramatic change in fortunes for Najib

KUALA LUMPUR: As a Malaysian judge read out a verdict of guilty on all charges, former prime minister Najib Razak sat silently in the dock at the end of the first of five graft trials linked to scandal-tainted state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib, 67, offered no visible reaction to the verdict.

Masked against the coronavirus, wearing a brown suit with red and black striped tie, he had recited a brief prayer while flanked by leaders of his political party before he entered the dock.

The High Court judge said the prosecution had proven beyond reasonable doubt that Najib was guilty of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power for illegally receiving nearly RM42 million (S$13 million) from former 1MDB unit SRC International.

Najib read a statement prior to sentencing: "I did not demand for the RM42 million, I did not plan for the RM42 million, nor was the RM42 million offered to me and there has been no evidence or witnesses to say so. I had no knowledge of the RM42 million.

"And that's all I have to say."

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday called on Malaysians to continue to have faith in the independent judicial system following the guilty verdict, and stressed that the Perikatan Nasional government would always uphold the rule of law.

"Let us continue to have faith in the judicial system.

"I understand the feelings and sentiments you are experiencing - but let me stress that the government will always uphold the rule of law," he said in a statement yesterday.

A joint statement by Pakatan Harapan opposition, led by Mr Anwar Ibrahim, said: "The ruling is a huge victory for Malaysians.

"This process of justice would not have started if the people did not rise to grant victory to Pakatan Harapan and defeated Barisan Nasional in GE14 (14th general election)."

Mr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, president of Najib's United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party, said that they accept the decision.

"But as a friend, I sympathise and am saddened by the decision of the court.

"However, he told me that this is not the end of the world. I am sure there will be something that Umno will do, so wait for the decision that we will make."

Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, minister and senior Umno leader, said the decision will have an effect on the party.

"The time has come to rebuild Umno and for us to look at a generational shift in leadership that will bring the party to a new era."

The eldest son of Malaysia's second Prime Minister Abdul Razak Hussein, Najib was groomed for high office from his political debut, aged 23.

Until recently, he was the youngest person elected to parliament. He was also one of the youngest to be appointed a federal deputy minister, and later the youngest to head his home state of Pahang as chief minister.

But yesterday's verdict gave him the ignominy of being the first former Malaysian prime minister to be convicted of corruption. - REUTERS, THE STAR

WORLD