Former Malaysian PM Najib arrives at court for 1MDB case verdict

Former Malaysia prime minister Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court complex, on July 27, 2020.
Former Malaysia prime minister Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court complex, on July 27, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Najib Razak arrives at the Duta Court complex awaiting a verdict in his corruption trial in Kuala Lumpur, on July 28, 2020.
Najib Razak arrives at the Duta Court complex awaiting a verdict in his corruption trial in Kuala Lumpur, on July 28, 2020.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Riot police officers stand guard in front of the Kuala Lumpur High Court complex on July 27, 2020.
Riot police officers stand guard in front of the Kuala Lumpur High Court complex on July 27, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Supporters of former Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak chant outside the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex on July 28, 2020.
Supporters of former Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak chant outside the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex on July 28, 2020.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Media personnel gathered in the lobby of the court complex.
Media personnel gathered in the lobby of the court complex.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, AFP) -  Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak arrived at a Kuala Lumpur court on Tuesday (July 28) to hear a verdict in the first of several graft trials linked to a multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). 

The court will hand down its verdict following a long-running case probing Najib's role in the 1MDB scandal.

Najib and his inner circle are accused of plundering sovereign wealth fund in a fraud that stretched around the world.

Stolen cash was used to buy high-end real estate, pricey art and fund a Hollywood blockbuster, while investment titan Goldman Sachs also became embroiled in the controversy.

Anger at the looting played a large part in the shock loss of Najib's long-ruling coalition in elections two years ago, and he was arrested and hit with dozens of charges following his defeat.

Najib arrived in court 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.  

“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.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court is expected to deliver the verdict in the first of Najib's 1MDB-link trials, which began in April last year, at 10am on Tuesday.

It centres on the transfer of RM42 million (S$13.6 million) from a former 1MDB unit, SRC International, into his bank accounts.

The ex-leader, who is facing four charges of corruption and three of money-laundering in the case, denies wrongdoing and insists he was ignorant of the transactions.

The defence team have portrayed Najib as a victim and instead sought to paint financier Low Taek Jho, a key figure in the scandal who has been charged in the US and Malaysia, as the mastermind.

Low, whose whereabouts are unknown, maintains his innocence.


Najib Razak arrives at the Duta Court complex awaiting a verdict in his corruption trial in Kuala Lumpur, on July 28, 2020. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Prosecutors however insist Najib was in control of the 1MDB unit, SRC International.

The verdict is a test of the rule of law in Malaysia, and comes about five months after Najib's scandal-plagued party returned to power as part of a coalition following the collapse of Mahathir Mohamad's reformist administration.

 
 
 
 

Since then, 1MDB-linked charges were unexpectedly dropped against the ex-leader's stepson Riza Aziz, one of the "Wolf of Wall Street" producers, in exchange for him agreeing to return assets to Malaysia.

Prosecutors also dropped dozens of charges against Najib ally Musa Aman, the former leader of Sabah state.

If Najib - currently free on bail - is convicted on Tuesday, he could be sentenced the same day.

Each charge of corruption carries a maximum jail term of 20 years, and each money-laundering count is punishable by a term of up to 15 years.

But the 67-year-old is likely to appeal, and may not be jailed straight away.

If he is found guilty and the conviction is upheld, then he would also be barred from political office for several years.

The amounts involved in Najib's first case are small compared to those in his second and most significant trial, which centres on allegations he illicitly obtained over US$500 million (S$689.2 million).

 

Malaysia had charged Goldman Sachs and some current and former staff, claiming large amounts were stolen when the bank arranged bond issues for 1MDB.

But the two sides agreed to a US$3.9 billion settlement last week in exchange for charges being dropped.