KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was on Tuesday found guilty of all seven charges in the first of five trials he faces over a multi-billion-dollar graft scandal at 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund he founded.
A Malaysian judge said Najib’s defense team had failed to raise reasonable doubt on a charge of abuse of power in trial.
Najib’s case on Tuesday was for three counts of criminal breach of trust, one count of abuse of power and three counts of money laundering, with each charge carrying a prison sentence of up to 15 to 20 years.
It is unclear if he will be sentenced immediately. His lawyers have said sentencing could be delayed or suspended due to the complex nature of the case.
The implementation of the sentence can also be stayed if Najib pursues an appeal at the federal court.
Najib, who was voted out in a historic 2018 election, faces dozens of criminal charges over allegations that 4.5 billion U.S. dollars were stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Prosecutors allege more than one billion dollars of the funds made its way into his personal accounts.
The scandal, which led to the ousting of Najib’s Umno party after 61 years in power, has upended the country’s political landscape and promoted a series of investigations in countries around the world.
Allegations of corruption over 1MDB have hung over Najib for more than five years. But the criminal charges came only two years ago when his successor Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations.
“This is my chance to clear my name,” Najib said in a Facebook post on Monday night.
“Whatever the decision tomorrow at the high court, it does not end here,” he said, adding that both sides would appeal any decision at the federal court.
Najib’s lawyers say he was misled by Malaysian financier Jho Low and other 1MDB officials into believing that the funds banked into his accounts were donated by the Saudi royal family, rather than misappropriated from SRC as prosecutors have alleged. Low denies wrongdoing.
During the trial, Najib’s lavish spending sprees were brought to light, including credit card purchases that exceeded hundreds of thousands U.S. dollars at luxuriant shops outside the country. But Najib defended these purchases, claiming they were for official purposes.
Some of Najib’s supporters had gathered near the courthouse early on Tuesday. Roads to the court were closed off for security reasons.
The closely-watched case is seen as a test of Malaysia’s efforts to root out corruption, after Najib’s party was returned to power in February as part of an alliance led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
The verdict could have far-reaching political implications.
A guilty verdict could boost Muhyiddin’s credibility with the public, but weaken his coalition, which counts Najib’s party as its biggest component – and potentially trigger snap polls.
An acquittal could turn public sentiment against Muhyiddin and encourage the opposition to challenge the ruling coalition’s two-seat majority in parliament.
The court’s decision comes just days after Malaysia reached a 3.9 billion dollars deal with Goldman Sachs over its role in helping 1MDB raise money. (CGTN)