KUALA LUMPUR – Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay 210 million ringgit (about $49 million) in fines after being found guilty on Tuesday of all seven charges against him in the first trial linked to the multi-billion dollar 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
Najib was sentenced to 12 years in prison for one count of abuse of power, 10 years for each of the three counts of money laundering and 10 years for three counts of criminal breach of trust, although the three sentences will be completed simultaneously.
Tuesday’s verdict centered around 42 million ringgit misappropriated from 1MDB subsidiary SRC International into the private accounts of Najib.
At the High Court of Kuala Lumpur, Judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali ruled that the prosecution had “successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Each charge carried maximum penalties of between 15 and 20 years.
“I have said this is the chance for me to clear my name,” Najib wrote on Facebook late Monday. “No matter what the decision is tomorrow in the High Court, it doesn’t end here.”
He still has the possibility of appealing the sentence, thus maintaining his bail.
The former prime minister, who ruled the country from April 2009 to May 2018, claimed that he was deceived by Malaysian businessman Jho Low, once his adviser and who remains a fugitive.
According to Najib’s defense plea, he thought Jho Low had ties to the Saudi royal house and that the funds entered into his accounts came from a donation from King Abdullah bin Abdelaziz, who died in 2015.
The judge rejected this argument and said that “the accused failed to confirm the (veracity of the) donation” despite having the mechanisms for it and did not send him a “thank you” note.
Judge Nazlan also acknowledged links between the former prime minister and Jho low, the latter with a leading role in the corruption plot.
The “totality of evidence” showed the defendant knew about the three transactions, but “deliberately” concealed them, the judge said.
Najib faces another 35 corruption charges.
The 1MDB corruption plot came to light in 2015, when a journalistic investigation exposed the multi-billion-dollar diversion from the state fund to the private accounts of Najib, the fund’s founder and then-leader of Malaysia.