Malaysian appeals court upholds former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s corruption conviction

Dec 8, 2021: A Malaysian appellate court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of former Prime Minister Najib Razak in a corruption case in the first case involving a multi-billion dollar state fund scandal.

Najib, whose term as prime minister ended in defeat in the 2018 election, was found guilty in July last year of transferring an estimated 42 million ringgit ($ 9.88m) from his personal bank accounts to SRC International, a division of 1MDB was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The appellate court said it agreed with the high court’s decision. Announcing the unanimous decision of the three judges who formed the appeal panel in Patrajaya, the administrative capital, Judge Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil said, “We reject the motion and uphold the sentence on all charges.”

The 68-year-old was granted bail on a pending appeal, and the court agreed that he should be free to appeal to the federal court, Malaysia’s highest court. The seven charges in the SRC case include abuse of power, multiple charges of money laundering and criminal breach of trust.

Najib, his leading lawyer, Mohammad Shafi Abdullah, and other members of the defense team appeared from their homes via video call due to the corona virus.

The former prime minister, dressed in a dark suit, showed little emotion when Judge Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil read out the panel’s results. During the appeal, the judges were clear, citing the defense’s claim that Najib was acting in the national interest. Looking at the flow of money in Najib’s personal bank accounts, Judge Abdul Karim told the court: “This is not something that can be said to have been done in the national interest. There is no national interest here. Just a national embarrassment. “

The court ruling comes as Najib seeks to return to a country that has been ruled by three prime ministers since the 1MDB scandal toppled his government. He is popular with the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which has now returned to power after its 2018 defeat.

In recent days, Najib and his legal team have tried to present new evidence, and asked for a adjournment on Tuesday because a member of the team had tested positive for COVID-19. The judge rejected the request, and rejected the request to accept new evidence in the online hearing.

In reaching his guilty verdict last year, Judge Muhammad Nazlan Ghazali said Najib, who was both prime minister and finance minister at the time of the crime, had acted “beyond the bounds of legitimate conduct” in approving the loans, which later became a source of funds to his personal account

The defence asserted that his confession had been obtained through torture. During the appeal, the defense argued that Najib did not know whether the money was going to his accounts or that it came from SRC. They claimed that Najib had been persuaded by Malaysian financier Zhu Low and other 1MDB officials that the money in his account had been donated by the Saudi royal family.

Speaking after the decision, Najib, the son of Malaysia’s famously frugal second prime minister, said he was “very disappointed” at the outcome and insisted he did not know anything about the money in his account.

About 50 supporters of the former prime minister travelled to Putrajaya, some wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the word ‘bossku’ (my boss). Protesting Najib’s innocence they said he was being “persecuted”.

The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that $4.5 billion was withdrawn from 1MDB during Najib’s rule.

According to the prosecution, the former prime minister received more than bn 1bn out of 1MDB funds, and he is facing a total of 42 criminal charges related to this scandal. Najib is the first Malaysian leader to be found guilty of corruption. His appeal in federal court could take another six to nine months.

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