Malaysia’s former prime minister loses a final appeal in the 1MDB scandal

Malaysia’s former prime minister loses a final appeal in the 1MDB scandal
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak walks out from the Federal Court during a court break, in Putrajaya, Malaysia August 23, 2022. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

Serving as the Malaysian Prime Minister from 2009 to 2018, Najib Razak has been in the midst of a multi-billion dollar graft scandal. In July 2020, Najib was found guilty of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering. This conviction comes from allegedly receiving US$10 million from SRC International, a former unit of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a fund set up that was meant to aid economic development throughout Malaysia. But, investigators say up to US$4.5 billion was stolen from the fund co-founded by Najib, and over US$1 billion went into accounts linked to him. The massive scandal also caused the US State Department to open its biggest kleptocracy investigation.

Yesterday, Malaysia’s top court upheld Najib’s 2020 conviction. In fact, the five-person court ruled unanimously against him. After appealing for years, he hasn’t served any prison time yet. Now, he’ll serve 12 years and is the country’s first former prime minister to be jailed. Before the court announced this verdict, Najib made a speech protesting the higher court’s refusal to delay the appeal and let his lawyers prepare for the case. He’d also attempted to get Chief Justice Maimun Tuan Mat off the case altogether, claiming she was biased.

Key comments:

“The people made the decision in 2018 to ensure an independent judiciary and that the country is clean of bribery. That decision allowed proceedings to be brought professionally," said Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

“There are times when we feel overwhelmed by tests and trials. With slander and persecution, with sincerity rewarded with betrayal. Sometimes we feel we are alone," Najib posted on Facebook the day before the verdict.

“We are unable to conclude that any of the findings of the High Court, as affirmed by the Court of Appeal, were perverse or plainly wrong so as to warrant appellate intervention. We agree that the defense is so inherently inconsistent and incredible that it does not raise a reasonable doubt on the prosecution case," said Chief Justice Maimun Tuan Mat while reading out the verdict.