Malaysia’s top court ordered former prime minister Najib Razak to be jailed for 12 years on Tuesday after upholding a guilty conviction on charges related to a multi-billion dollar graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The Federal Court ruling marks the stunning downfall of Najib. The former Malaysian PM, who until four years ago governed Malaysia with an iron grip and suppressed local investigations of the 1MDB scandal that has implicated financial institutions and high-ranking officials worldwide.
Investigators have insisted that some $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB which was co-founded by Najib during his first year as prime minister in 2009. The investigators added that that over $1 billion was transferred to accounts linked to Najib.
A court official and sources close to Najib said he was taken to Kajang Prison after being sentenced, some 40 km away from capital city of Kuala Lumpur.
“This is unprecedented. Najib will be remembered for his many firsts, the first prime minister to lose a general election, the first to be convicted,” said Adib Zalkapli, Director at political risk consultancy BowerGroupAsia told news agency Reuters.
Born of Malay nobility and educated in Britain, Najib was the premier from 2009 to 2018. His reign saw public anger over the graft scandal, which brought election defeat, and dozens of corruption charges were lodged in following months.
Najib, 69, was found guilty by a lower court in July 2020 of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering for illegally receiving about $10 million from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB. He had been out on bail pending appeals.
Despite pleading not guilty, the former Premier was sentenced to 12 years’ jail and a 210 million ringgit ($46.84 million) fine.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim hailed the verdict and said it proved the power of the people.
“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,” Reuters quoted him saying.
Najib has maintained that he not done anything wrong. “It’s the worst feeling to have to realise that the might of the judiciary is pinned against me in the most unfair manner,” Najib told the court earlier, insisting that he was a victim of injustice.
Najib could apply for a review of the Federal Court decision, though such applications are rarely successful. He can also seek a pardon from the king. If successful, he could be released without serving the full 12-year term.