A court yesterday sentenced former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak to serve 12 years in prison after finding him guilty in the first of several corruption trials linked to the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) state investment fund that brought down his government two years ago.
Najib, 67, was calm and stone-faced as he became the first Malaysian leader to be convicted. He took an oath in brief remarks in the dock that he was innocent.
Judge Mohamad Nazlan Ghazali sentenced Najib to 12 years in jail on one count of abuse of power, 10 years each for three counts of criminal breach of trust and 10 years each for three counts of money laundering, as well as a fine of 210 million ringgit (US$49.4 million).
However, he ordered the sentences to run concurrently, meaning that Najib would face only up to 12 years in jail.
He also allowed a stay of the jail sentence and fine pending Najib’s planned appeal, but he raised the bail amount and ordered Najib to report to the police twice a month.
The judge earlier read out an elaborate two-hour ruling that convicted Najib of all seven charges.
The judge said that the sentence was “appropriate and proportionate,” taking into account that Najib had committed the crime from a “position of trust” as prime minister, his final plea and the need to deter others from committing the same crime.
The judge agreed with prosecutors that Najib had “overarching control” of SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB, and failed to rebut allegations that he misappropriated money for his own use, adding that the defense’s argument that Najib had been duped by rogue bankers was “too far-fetched.”
Analysts said the ruling would bolster the prosecution’s cases in his other trials and would signal that Malaysia’s legal system has strength in tackling international financial crimes, although some cautioned the ruling could be overturned, as his party remains in office.
Najib asked the court to take into account his achievements during his nine-year tenure and gave an oath that he was not aware of the 42 million ringgit channeled into his bank accounts from SRC.
“I did not demand the 42 million, I did not plan for the 42 million, nor was the 42 million offered to me. There has been no evidence nor witness to this. And I also like to say that I have no knowledge of the 42 million,” Najib said.
Some of Najib’s supporters outside the courthouse cried when they learned of the verdict.
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