PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia — Malaysia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s bribery conviction and 12-year sentence linked to the looting of sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. Najib’s loss in his latest appeal means he will have to start serving his sentence immediately, becoming the first former prime minister to be jailed.
The five-judge panel of the Federal Court said it had unanimously found that the High Court judge was correct in his assessment and that Najib’s appeal was “devoid of any merit”. The court upheld Najib’s conviction and sentence.
1MDB was a development fund that Najib set up shortly after taking power in 2009. Investigators say at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib’s associates. Najib was found guilty in 2020 of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering for illegally receiving $9.4 million from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.
Najib, 69, has maintained his innocence and has been released on bail pending his appeals. Just before the court handed down its sentence, he stood in the dock to make a statement protesting the high court’s refusal last week to delay the appeal to allow his newly appointed lawyers to prepare for the case.
Najib said he felt he had been “treated unfairly” and that his case had been rushed through. He pointed out that an expired Federal Court judgment had been posted on a website and said that if true it would be “judicial misconduct of the highest order”.
But Chief Justice Maimoon Tuan Mat said the appeal hearings had ended as Najib’s lawyers refused to present new arguments in protest at not being given more time to prepare. She then read the verdict to the court.
Najib appeared in shock. He was immediately surrounded by his family and supporters.
The verdict came after a series of attempts by Najib to delay the case.
Earlier on Tuesday, he tried to remove Maimoun from the case, citing possible bias because her husband had made a negative Facebook post about Najib’s leadership shortly after he was ousted in the 2018 general election. But judges rejected the plea of Najib.
Maimun, Malaysia’s first female chief justice who was appointed in 2019, has been attacked on social media by Najib’s supporters. Police arrested a man over the weekend in connection with death threats against Monkey. Hundreds of Najib’s supporters gathered outside the court in a show of support.
The 1MDB scandal sparked investigations in the US and several other countries and caused the fall of Najib’s government in the 2018 election. Najib is facing a total of 42 charges in five separate trials related to 1MDB, and his wife is also on trial on charges of corruption.
Still, Najib remains politically influential. His United Malays National Organization leads the current government after the defection of MPs caused the collapse of the reformist government that won the 2018 election.
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