KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million (US$49.38 million) on Tuesday (Jul 28), following a guilty verdict in his first corruption trial involving millions of ringgit linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The charges include abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust.
High Court judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali said when reading the judgment: “I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. I therefore find the accused guilty and convict the accused on all seven charges."
The charges against Najib, who served as prime minister from 2009 to 2018, involved the transfer of RM42 million from former 1MDB unit SRC International into his personal bank accounts in 2014 and 2015.
He was charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust, three counts of money laundering and one count of abuse of power.
For each count of criminal breach of trust, Najib was sentenced to 10 years' jail; for each count of money laundering, 10 years.
For abuse of power, Judge Nazlan handed out a sentence of 12 years' jail and a RM210 million fine. If Najib fails to pay the fine, a five-year jail sentence will be served in lieu.
All prison sentences are to run concurrently.
Najib has indicated that he will launch an appeal.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a statement that he respects the court's decision, while urging all parties to "have faith in the legal system and judiciary as a free and independent institution".
"I understand the feelings and sentiments some of you have on the verdict by the court. Despite this, I would (like) to stress that the Perikatan Nasional government will always uphold the rule of law," he added.
In mitigation, Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said Najib was merely an over-trusting prime minister who had done no wrong.
“He has not even gotten a traffic summon before.
“He is only at fault for trusting the people who ought to run the company - both SRC and 1Malaysia Development Berhad. He is not the only PM to overtrust,” said the lawyer.
On his part, lead prosecutor V Sithambaram noted that no other Malaysian prime minister has been convicted in court. “This case had tarnished the image of the country,” he said.
“I HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE RM42 MILLION”: NAJIB
Following the submissions by the defence and the prosecution, Najib said in court: “As a Muslim although I have said this before, let me say this again. I did not demand for the RM42 million. I did not plan for the RM42 million.”
“I did not offer the RM42 million and there is no evidence, no witness at all. Also I have no knowledge of the RM42 million,” he reiterated.
This was after the judge had earlier stated in his judgement that it was impossible for Najib to have not known of such large transactions in his bank accounts.
The court was told in the course of the trial that Najib was “shocked and upset” when he found out that millions of ringgit had been transferred into his private accounts.
Najib's defence team had argued that he was merely a victim of a conspiracy planned by fugitive financier Low Taek Jho commonly known as Jho Low.
Besides this trial, Najib is also facing two other 1MDB-linked trials. The corruption case related to an alleged money laundering of RM27 million will be tried at Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan's court from Jul 5 next year.
In 2018, after the Najib-led Barisan Nasional government was ousted in the 14th general election, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the next prime minister on his second stint in office, called for investigations on the 1MDB scandal to be reopened.
In the months that followed, Najib was barred from leaving the country and police had seized cash and other valuable items from premises linked to him.