Vincent Thian / AP
PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia – Malaysia’s highest court on Tuesday upheld former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s combined conviction and 12-year prison sentence in connection with the robbery of 1MDB state funds. Mr. Najib’s loss of the final appeal means he will have to start serving his sentence immediately, becoming the first former prime minister to be jailed.
The five-member Federal Court panel said it unanimously found that the supreme court judge was correct in his ruling and that Najib’s appeal was “unhelpful.” The court confirmed Najib’s charges and convictions.
1MDB is a development fund that Najib set up shortly after coming to power in 2009. Investigators allege at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib’s associates. In 2020, Najib was found guilty of abuse of power, breach of trust and money laundering for illegally receiving $9.4 million from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.
Najib, 69, insists he is innocent and has been released on bail pending an appeal. Just before the court sentencing, he stood on the dock to issue a statement protesting the top court’s refusal to postpone an appeal last week so his newly appointed attorneys could prepare. for the case.
Najib said he felt he had been “treated unfairly” and that his case had been hastily resolved. He pointed out that a leaked Federal Court verdict had been posted on a website and said if this were true, it would be a “judicial misconduct by supreme order.”
But Chief Justice Maimun Tuan Mat said the appeal hearing was over because Najib’s lawyers refused to make any new arguments in protest at the lack of more time to prepare. Then she read the court verdict.
Najib appeared in astonishment. He was immediately surrounded by family and supporters.
The ruling comes after a series of attempts by Najib to prolong the case.
Earlier, on Tuesday, he sought to remove Maimun from the case, citing possible bias because her husband had posted negative posts on Facebook about Najib’s leadership shortly after his ouster. in the 2018 general election, but the judges rejected Najib’s application.
Maimun, Malaysia’s first female chief justice appointed in 2019, was attacked on social media by Najib’s supporters. Police arrested a man over the weekend in connection with death threats to Maimun. Hundreds of Najib’s supporters gathered outside the court to show their support.
The 1MDB scandal sparked investigations in the US and several other countries and led to the fall of Mr. Najib’s government during the 2018 election. Najib faces a total of 42 charges in five trials. separately related to 1MDB, and his wife is also being tried on corruption charges.
However, Najib remains politically influential. His United Malays National Organization leading the current government after defecting lawmakers caused the collapse of the reformist government won the polls in 2018.