World

'Not the end of the world,' says Najib, after guilty verdict

Malaysia's former PM found guilty of corruption, sentenced to 12 years' jail in first trial over 1MDB scandal

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 12 years' jail yesterday in the first trial over a multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) that stretched to the Gulf states and Hollywood.

In a case widely seen as a test of the nation's resolve to stamp out corruption, and which could have major political implications, high court judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali sentenced Najib to 12 years and a fine of RM210 million (S$68 million) for abuse of power.

Judge Mohd Nazlan found Najib, 67, guilty of every single charge, including abuse of power, and multiple counts of criminal breach of trust and money laundering for illegally receiving RM42 million from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.

SEVEN CHARGES

Said Justice Mohd Nazlan: "I find the accused guilty and convict him on all seven charges.

"After considering all evidence in this trial, I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt."

The judge allowed a request by Najib's lawyers to delay the jail sentence and the fine, but asked Najib to post additional bail and report to a police station twice a month.

He has to post RM1 million bail today.

"I am surely not satisfied with the result," Najib told reporters, adding that an appeal would be filed as soon as possible.

"This is definitely not the end of the world, because there's a process of appeal, and we hope that we would be successful then," he said.

Mr Mohd Nazlan, in his two-hour long judgment, dismissed Najib's claim that the RM42 million in his bank account was a donation from the Saudi Arabia royal family.

Najib's lead defence counsel Shafee Abdullah had also claimed Najib was a "victim of a scam" by fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, which the judge ruled was "far fetched".

"All roads lead to Rome.

"In this case, they lead to Riyadh," the judge said, in a reference to the defence's arguments regarding the Saudi donation.

Najib can remain a lawmaker but will be disqualified if his conviction stands after all legal avenues have been exhausted.

His party returned to power in February as part of an alliance led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who yesterday said the government respected the verdict and was committed to the rule of law.

Sources said this week a guilty verdict could prompt Najib's camp to withdraw support for the government, which has a razor-thin majority.

He retains his parliamentary seat in Pekan, Pahang pending an appeal, but he will not be able to contest in a general election while the guilty verdict stands.

US and Malaysian authorities say US$4.5 billion (S$6.2 billion) is believed to have been stolen from 1MDB - a fund Najib founded to promote economic development - and used by his associates to buy art, a superyacht and fund The Wolf Of Wall Street movie.

Prosecutors have said US$27 million was used to buy a pink diamond necklace for Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor, and some of the money went into warchests for Najib's election campaigns.

Former US attorney-general Jeff Sessions described the scandal as kleptocracy at its worst.

Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with Singapore's Institute of International Affairs, said the verdict was "the first time a prime minister has been convicted of essentially corruption-related charges and it testifies to the level of corruption in Malaysia". - REUTERS

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