July 28 (AFP) – Malaysia’s ex-leader Najib Razak was found guilty Tuesday in his first trial over the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal, two years after the fraud contributed to the downfall of his long-ruling government.
The former prime minister could now face decades in jail after being convicted on all charges in the case related to the looting of sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
Billions of dollars were stolen from the investment vehicle and spent on everything from high-end real estate to pricey art, while investment bank Goldman Sachs also became embroiled in the scandal.
Anger at the looting played a large part in the shock loss of Najib’s long-ruling coalition in elections in 2018, and he was arrested and hit with dozens of charges following his defeat.
The verdict was a test of Malaysia’s rule of law. It comes about five months after Najib’s scandal-plagued party returned to power as part of a coalition, a development observers had feared could affect the outcome of the case.
About 16 months after it began, the Kuala Lumpur High Court delivered the verdict in Najib’s first trial, which centred on the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($9.9 million) from a former 1MDB unit, SRC International, into his accounts.
Najib had vehemently denied wrongdoing.
But Judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali took apart all the arguments put forward by his defence, and found him guilty on the seven charges he faced.
“In conclusion, after considering all the evidence in this trial, I find the prosecution has successfully proven the case,” the judge told the court.
– Abuse of power –
The charges were one of abuse of power, three of criminal breach of trust and three of money-laundering.
The counts of abuse of power and criminal breach of trust are punishable by up to 20 years in jail each, while the money-laundering charges are punishable by up to 15 years each.
Sentencing was not handed down straight away. The 67-year-old will likely appeal and he may not be sent to jail immediately. If his conviction is upheld, he will also be barred from political office for several years.
Najib had insisted he was ignorant of the transactions.