KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's former premier Najib Razak was on Tuesday (July 28) sentenced to 12 years' jail and fined RM210 million (S$68.1 million) after being found guilty of all seven charges in the first of his five trials relating to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali found Najib, 67, guilty of one count of abuse of power, three counts of criminal breach of trust and three counts of money laundering regarding the misappropriation of RM42 million from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.
"I find the accused guilty and convict him on all seven charges," said the judge.
During sentencing Justice Mohd Nazlan meted out 12 years jail and a RM210 million fine for abuse of power. Najib was given 10 years jail for each of the three counts of criminal breach of trust. He also received 10 years jail for each of the three money-laundering charges.
The judge ruled that the sentences would run concurrently, which means Najib is required to serve up to 12 years in prison.
He remains free as he was granted a stay of execution of the sentence pending appeal. He has to post RM1 million bail on Wednesday and is required to report to the police twice a month.
Najib had said that he would file an appeal with the apex Federal Court if the verdict went against him.
Najib, who spoke in court during the mitigation hearing, maintained his innocence and denied any wrongdoing. “I did not demand for the RM42 million, I did not plan for it, it was never offered to me. No evidence to say so,” he said.
After the hearing he told reporters he was not satisfied with the decision but would appeal. “It’s not the end of the world because there’s the process of appeal and we hope we will be successful then,” he said.
Najib had arrived in court slightly before 10am to shouts of “long live Najib” by hundreds of supporters who had gathered outside.
Wearing a mask and flanked by top leaders of his party, Najib offered prayers just outside the courtroom.
The crowd's jubilant mood turned solemn after they learnt of the guilty verdict, reported The Star, with some supporters left in tears.
Veteran actor Sulaiman Yassin said he was disappointed with the verdict. “This is nothing but a political decision. I feel that he (Najib) was sabotaged in an unfair political game,” he told The Star.
“This is my chance to clear my name,” Najib had 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 conviction appears to confirm Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's commitment to "not interfere" in graft cases against prominent Umno politicians like Najib, even though they are his allies in the five-month old Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.
Dozens of these corruption charges were instituted under the former ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) after its shock win against Umno in the May 2018 general election.
Concerns about political interference in the court process were raised after money laundering charges against Najib's stepson, Mr Riza Aziz, relating to 1MDB funds were dropped in May, in a settlement reached with prosecutors.
The opposition PH hailed Tuesday's verdict as a “huge victory for the people of Malaysia”. It said the judicial process for the case would not have begun if the people had not delivered an election victory to PH in May 2018.
While Najib would still be allowed to keep his parliamentary seat in Pekan, Pahang, pending appeal, he will not be able to contest in a general election while the guilty verdict stands, thus scuppering any chances of him returning as lawmaker or prime minister if there is a snap election.
There are growing calls from member parties of PN for snap polls to be held even though the next general election is not due until 2023.
Najib will not be able to defend his seat unless his guilty verdict is vacated by either the Court of Appeal or the Federal Court - a process that could take up to a year, or longer.
In total, Najib is facing 42 counts of corruption, abuse of power and money laundering across five different court cases relating to his role in the multibillion-dollar scandal involving 1MDB, the state-owned wealth fund he co-founded in 2009. He also served as the fund's advisory board chairman.
US authorities have alleged over US$4.5 billion (S$6.2 billion) was embezzled from the state fund and spent worldwide on luxury assets like yachts, paintings and high-end properties.
Najib was also recently ordered by Malaysian courts to pay RM1.69 billion in unpaid taxes to the Inland Revenue Board.