The Supreme Court considers the former leader guilty of seven crimes related to the misappropriation of the State Fund.
The shadow of the prison is over Najib Razak. The former prime minister of Malaysia was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Tuesday after being found guilty of seven corruption charges linked to the billionaire embezzlement of the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). It is the first trial that took place as a result of the affair, with global repercussions, that was crucial in Najib ‘s electoral loss in the 2018 elections. The judicial process also has significant consequences for the complex political scene in the Asian nation, which was unveiled by the Prime Minister last March following an internal coup.
“After reviewing all the facts submitted, I find that the Office of the Prosecutor has proven its case beyond any reasonable doubt,” said the Supreme Court judge, Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali, at the seat of that court in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. The magistrate ruled that Najib, present in the courtroom, was aware of the money transfers in his favor, which the former prime minister of the Muslim-majority nation had denied in the “belonging to Allah,” according to the Malaysiakini newspaper.
Najib was convicted of seven crimes-three counts of money laundering, three counts of breach of confidence, and one count of abuse of power related to the theft of funds totaling 42 million ringgit (approximately 8.4 million euro). From SRC International, a supposed former member of the Fund, to its personal accounts. The judge sentenced the former chief to 12 years in prison and a fine of 210 million ringgit (€42 million) for abuse of influence and 10 years in jail for each of the other offenses. The sentence is cumulative, so that the one relating to abuse of power prevails, according to the Malaysian newspaper The Star.
At the trial, which began in April last year, Najib alleged that he had been deceived by Malaysian businessman Jho Low and other 1MDB advisors to believe that the funds raised were a donation from the royal family of Saudis-also peppered by the scandal-and not deviated from the SRC. The Fund was funded by PetroSaudi International, a business co-founded by Prince Turki bin Abdalá, son of late King Abdalá bin Abdelaziz of Saudi Arabia. Jho Low, an anonymous location, is accused of washing hundreds of millions of dollars of the fund, taking corruption to Hollywood: the entrepreneur came to hand one Picasso and Basquiat to the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Supreme Court of Malaysia ruled that Najib did not know about the project and explained that the accused had “erred in not verifying the veracity” of the supposed donation. The sentence will have dramatic implications not only for Najib but also for the political scene in Malaysia. The controversy was central to the electoral loss of the former leader against Mahathir Mohamad in 2018, which ousted the Government of the National Organization of United Malaysians (UMNO) after 61 years in office.
Yet suddenly UMNO, where Najib is still very powerful, reclaimed the reins of the government last March. The nonagenarian Mahathir then resigned after suspected coup maneuvers in the ranks of his government that led Muhyiddin Yassin to succeed him with the help of UMNO. The return of the influential group to front-page politics has increased concerns for the independence of the Najib court, even though Muhyiddin has vowed to continue the fight against corruption. A tough game for the current leader; the decision could weaken or reinforce his coalition in the face of potential early elections next year by distancing himself from Najib.
The former leader will not be allowed to vote in the polls, but he will remain in Parliament until the appeal is settled. The evolution of this and other judicial procedures must decide Malaysia’s political stability, as the 1MDB fraud, exposed in 2015 after a leak to a British journalist, is being investigated in other nations, such as the United States, Switzerland or Singapore.