Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was found guilty of all seven corruption charges in his first trial over the multibillion dollar scandal involving the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Accused of massive embezzlement of public funds he founded, Najib’s corruption trial marked a fall from grace for a politician who ruled his country for nearly 10 years until 2018.
Rendering his decision at a two-hour hearing in Kuala Lumpur, Judge Mohamad Nazlan Ghazali concluded that: “I find the accused guilty and I find him guilty on all seven counts.”
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The trial was the first of Najib’s five faces, and analysts said the success of the prosecution increases the chances that he will be found guilty in the remaining proceedings. In total, he faces 42 charges, many of which carry long prison terms of up to 20 years.
Najib has always denied all charges. He said he was misled by rogue bankers and the case against him was political.
He promised to appeal, and on Monday night he appeared to anticipate Tuesday’s verdict, writing on Facebook: “From day one I said this was my opportunity to clear my name. After that we will go to the Court of Appeal. I’m ready. ”
Outrage over the 1MDB scandal largely contributed to Najib’s defeat in the 2018 general election which saw the return of 92-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. It was the first time that Najib’s Barisan Nasional (BN) party had lost control of parliament since the founding of independent Malaysia in 1957.
Mahathir himself was ousted in a snap election in February this year, bringing BN back to power, and Najib’s trial was seen as a test of the country’s commitment to rooting out corruption.
Allegations of 1MDB corruption have hung over Najib for more than five years, although charges were not brought until after he was beaten at the polls in 2018.
The fund was established in 2009 shortly after the rise to power of Najib, whose father and uncle were Malaysia’s second and third prime ministers. It was apparently designed to accelerate the economic development of Malaysia.
But the fund has racked up billions in debt, and US investigators have alleged that at least $ 4.5 billion (£ 3.5 billion) was stolen and laundered by Najib’s associates to fund films. Hollywood and buy hotels, a luxury yacht, artwork, jewelry and other extravagances. .
Prosecutors allege that more than $ 1 billion from state funds entered the prime minister’s personal accounts. His wife and several officials from his party and the previous government were also accused of corruption.
The current trial involved one charge of abuse of power, three charges of criminal breach of trust and three charges of money laundering.
The judge said Najib had not raised a reasonable doubt and prosecutors had established beyond a reasonable doubt that Najib had embezzled the money for his own use.
The court ruling comes just days after Malaysia struck a $ 3.9 billion (£ 3 billion) deal with Goldman Sachs over its role in helping 1MDB raise funds.
This could have important ramifications for the current government. Analysts say this will likely bolster the reputation of current prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was sacked as a member of parliament for Najib (five years ago until Tuesday’s verdict date) for speaking out on the 1MDB scandal.
But Muhyiddin now relies on Najib’s party, as the largest of the ruling BN alliance, to support his government. If he withdraws his support for the guilty verdict, he could trigger another snap election.