Malaysian ex-PM Najib
Jailed Malaysian ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak returned to court Thursday for a second corruption trial over the pilfering of the 1MDB state fund, two days after he began a 12-year prison term for graft. Najib, 69, became Malaysia's first leader to be imprisoned Tuesday after the country's top court rejected his final appeal in his first graft case linked to the looting of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund. His incarceration comes four years after his election ouster over the scandal and was celebrated by many citizens as justice served. Wearing a dark blue suit, red tie and face mask, Najib sat impassively in the dock without handcuffs as the hearing began. He was earlier brought into the court complex in a tinted police vehicle under heavy security to avoid a crowd of media waiting to catch a glimpse of him. The current trial began in August 2019 and is the most significant as it ties Najib directly to the 1MDB scandal that has prompted investigations in the U.S. and several other countries. Prosecutors allege Najib pilfered billions of dollars from 1MDB through an “elaborate charade” and then sought to cover his tracks. Najib says he was misled into believing it was a donation from the Saudi Arabia royal family. Najib faces four charges of abusing his power to obtain 2.3 billion ringgit (more than $700 million in the exchange rate at the time) from 1MDB between 2011 and 2014, and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same amount. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each count of abuse of power and up to five years for each of the money laundering charges. Read: Malaysia top court upholds ex-PM Najib's graft conviction 1MDB was a development fund that Najib set up shortly after taking power in 2009. Investigators allege more than $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib’s associates through layers of bank accounts in the U.S. and other countries to finance Hollywood films and extravagant purchases that included hotels, a luxury yacht, art works and jewelry. The scandal led to the ouster in 2018 general elections of Najib’s United Malays National Organization, which had been in power since the country’s independence from the British in 1957. The new government opened investigations into 1MDB that were stifled under Najib’s rule, and blocked Najib and his wife from leaving the country. Najib faces dozens of charges of criminal breach of trust, graft, abuse of power and money laundering in a total of five criminal cases linked to 1MDB. His wife and other senior government officials have also been hauled to court for corruption. Najib was found guilty in 2020 of seven charges of corruption for illegally receiving $9.4 million from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB. The country's top court affirmed the decision on Tuesday, sending Najib straight to prison to begin his sentence. Najib has insisted he was misled by fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho and other bankers into believing the funds entering his personal accounts were an Arab donation. Low, who was identified by U.S. investigators as the mastermind in the pilfering of the fund, is wanted in both the U.S. and Malaysia but has been in hiding.
PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian court Monday began hearing an appeal by ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak to overturn his conviction and 12-year jail sentence linked to the massive looting of the 1MDB state investment fund that brought down his government in 2018. The appeal came more than eight months after a high court found Najib guilty of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering, making him the first Malaysian leader to be convicted. He has said he was misled by rogue bankers and that the case against him is political. Also Read: Ex-PM Najib Razak faces new corruption charges in Malaysia The ruling was part of the first of several corruption trials against Najib that are linked to the 1MDB scandal, which sparked investigations in the U.S. and several other countries. U.S. investigators alleged that over $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB and laundered by Najib’s associates. Najib, 67, arrived at the Court of Appeal early Monday but didn’t speak to reporters. Najib, who set up 1MDB shortly after taking office in 2009, has denied all wrongdoing and his sentence was stayed pending the appeal. Last July, Najib made brief remarks under oath before his sentencing, saying he wasn’t aware of the 42 million ringgit ($10 million) channeled into his bank accounts from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit. Also Read: Judge orders Najib to enter defense in 1MDB case But the judge ruled that Najib’s argument that he was duped by Malaysian fugitive financier Low Taek Jho into believing the money was part of a donation by the Saudi royal family, to keep Najib from being suspicious of 1MDB plundering, was far-fetched and a weak fabrication. Investigators have identified Low as the mastermind behind the looting of 1MDB and he remains at large. Najib’s second and third trials involving some of the remaining charges are ongoing. His wife and several officials from his party and previous government have also been charged with graft related to 1MDB corruption.
A Malaysian judge on Monday ordered former Prime Minister Najib Razak to enter a defense at his first corruption trial linked to the massive looting at the 1MDB state investment fund.