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Najib Razak, Former Malaysia PM, Found Guilty in 1MDB Graft Case

  • Najib Razak was found guilty on seven counts of corruption and sentenced to up to 12 years in prison and fined nearly $50 million following years of charges that he pilfered government accounts to live a life of excess and luxury.
  • His political rivals applauded the decision and extolled the trial court’s independence.
  • Yet analysts have said that the decision could be reversed on appeal in what is likely to be a yearslong process.
  • Visit The Financial Today’s homepage for more stories.

Najib Razak has been a master of cutthroat politics in Malaysia for 45 years. Prime ministers’ son and nephew, he was elected to Parliament at 22 and rose to the highest office in the country. He was all but untouchable as prime minister — critics called him the “Man of Steal”—even as $4.5 billion had vanished from a government investment fund that he oversaw.

He was ultimately held to account on Tuesday.

He was found guilty on seven counts of corruption and sentenced to up to 12 years in prison and fined nearly $50 million following years of charges that he pilfered government accounts to live a life of excess and luxury. The sentence has stayed pending appeal.

The dramatic decision was a shocking setback for Najib, whose political party had recently returned to power after crushing the reformist government that won the 2018 election.

His political rivals applauded the decision and extolled the trial court’s independence. Yet analysts have said that the decision could be reversed on appeal in what is likely to be a yearslong process.

The severity of the sentence came as a shock to some after the government recently cut a deal with Najib’s stepson that allowed him to retain millions of dollars allegedly stolen from the same Malaysia Development Berhad Fund.

Tuesday’s trial was the first of five linked to the theft of billions from the investment fund, widely known as 1MDB, and Mr. Najib was found guilty of all seven charges of abuse of authority, breach of trust, and money laundering.

The stolen money was tracked by investigators to the acquisitions of a mega yacht and a Picasso painting, as well as an investment in the Hollywood film “The Wolf of Wall Street.” About $1 billion of the money ended up in Najib’s personal bank accounts, causing the national scandal that led to the ouster of his party, the United Malays National Organization, two years ago at elections.

The court dismissed Najib’s claim that Jho Low, a wealthy Malaysian businessman accused of masterminding the crime, who remains a foreign fugitive, carried out the theft without his knowledge.

“After considering all evidence in this trial, I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali of the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

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[The New York Times]

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