Malaysia appeal court to rule next month on ex-PM Najib's conviction

Former premier Najib Razak remains influential in Malaysian politics and is popular on social media.
Former premier Najib Razak remains influential in Malaysian politics and is popular on social media.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A Malaysia court will deliver its verdict in December on an appeal filed by former premier Najib Razak over his conviction in a corruption case related to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib was sentenced last year to 12 years in jail and fined US$50 million (S$68 million) after being found guilty of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering for illegally receiving about US$10 million from SRC International, a former unit of now-defunct 1MDB.

Najib, 68, had appealed the verdict and is out on bail. He has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Malaysia's Court of Appeal will deliver the verdict on Dec 8, the Federal Court registrar's office said in a statement.

He can appeal further to the Federal Court if his conviction is held up.

Najib remains influential in Malaysian politics and is popular on social media.

He is central to his party, Umno, which returned to power in August after it was ousted in elections three years ago due to widespread corruption allegations.

Opposition lawmakers are concerned graft allegations against Umno leaders could be dropped with the party back in power.

Najib is one of several Umno leaders facing corruption charges, all brought after the 2018 election loss.

He told Reuters in September he has not ruled out seeking re-election to parliament. To qualify, he would first need to have his conviction overturned.

US and Malaysian authorities say US$4.5 billion is believed to have been stolen from 1MDB, a fund Najib founded to promote economic development, and used by his associates to buy art, a superyacht and fund the "Wolf of Wall Street" movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Prosecutors say more than US$1 billion of 1MDB funds made its way into Najib's personal accounts, over which he faces a total of 42 criminal charges, all of which he has denied.

Meanwhile, a new TV series on the 1MDB scandal is in the works, according to trade publication The Hollywood Reporter.

The series will be based on the best-selling book 'Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, And The World'.

The book, written by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, describes how Malaysian Jho Low, whose real name is Low Taek Jho, has been accused by the United States government of masterminding the theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB, which was sent to bank accounts in Switzerland, Singapore and the Virgin Islands.

The TV series will be co-produced by Beau Willimon, who was involved in the hit political drama House Of Cards.

Willimon's partner, Jordan Tappis from Westward, and Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh are also credited as co-producers.

“At Westward we are drawn to stories that reflect the complexity of the times we live in, centring on enigmatic and surprising characters.

“We’re also drawn to developing innovative ways to produce work in a quickly shifting entertainment landscape," said Willimon and Tappis in a statement published by THR.