KUALA LUMPUR - Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, was sentenced to 10 years' jail and fined RM970 million (S$303 million) for graft on Thursday, just over a week after her husband was jailed when Malaysia's highest court affirmed his corruption conviction.
Rosmah, 70, was found guilty by Malaysia's High Court of soliciting a total of RM194 million in bribes to help solar energy firm Jepak Holdings secure a RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project for hundreds of schools in Sarawak in 2016.
The sentence is stayed pending her appeal against conviction. She is allowed to remain out on bail, which has been maintained at RM2 million.
Rosmah, who referred to herself as the former First Lady of Malaysia, was in tears as she addressed the court after the verdict was announced.
“I must admit that I’m very sad with what happened today,” she said. “Nobody saw me taking the money, nobody saw me counting the money... but if that’s the conclusion, I leave it to God.”
Delivering his decision on the graft case, Justice Zaini Mazlan said that he found Rosmah’s defence was a bare denial and unsubstantiated.
“The prosecution has succeeded in proving its case beyond reasonable doubt. The accused is therefore guilty of all three charges,” he said. He later sentenced her to 10 years' imprisonment for each charge but ruled that the sentences are to run concurrently.
She will need to serve another 10 years in prison if she fails to pay the RM970 million fine.
Rosmah’s lawyer Jagjit Singh criticised the fine amount as being “too high”. “The fine imposed is unprecedented, the largest in Malaysian legal history,” he told reporters outside court. “Now our client has to come up with nearly RM1 billion, and she doesn’t have a source of income.”
Mr Jagjit said during sentencing mitigation that Rosmah has an unblemished character and that she has been of service to the nation. He had sought a one-day jail sentence for her for each charge, to run concurrently.
Earlier on Thursday, Rosmah applied to get Justice Zaini recused from the case, arguing that a research paper prepared by court officials which was leaked online last week compromised the court and the judge’s integrity in delivering the verdict.
The document, according to her defence team, had indicated Rosmah would be convicted and preceded the court judgment.
Justice Zaini, in dismissing the application, said that he did not read the research document. “I have written over 200 judgments to date, all on my own,” he said.
Rosmah’s team said that it will appeal to the higher courts on the judge’s decision to dismiss the recusal application.
Rosmah also faces 17 money laundering and tax evasion charges involving a total of RM7.1 million in a separate ongoing trial.
Her conviction comes just over a week after Najib lost his final appeal against a 2020 graft conviction at the Federal Court.
He started serving a 12-year jail term at Kajang Prison in Selangor on Aug 23.
Najib was Malaysia's prime minister from 2009 to 2018. Critics have accused both him and Rosmah of leading a lavish lifestyle while he was in power.
Najib was convicted of misappropriating RM42 million from SRC International - a former subsidiary of the scandal-tainted state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) - which he co-founded.
He has four other ongoing trials relating to billions of 1MDB monies.
Rosmah has a month to file an appeal against her conviction with the Court of Appeal. If her conviction is upheld on appeal, her final recourse would be to appeal to the Federal Court.
From the date of his conviction at the High Court, Najib spent just over two years in the appeals process before he was imprisoned.
Before she was sentenced, Rosmah, clad in a yellow baju kurung, urged the judge to “have compassion” as she was now playing the role of the “man of the house” after her husband’s imprisonment last week.
Rosmah has maintained that her ex-aide Rizal Mansor, who was initially the co-accused in the case before becoming a prosecution witness, solicited the bribes for his own gain while using her name.