Najib Razak: Former Malaysian PM guilty on all charges in corruption trial

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Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak has been found guilty of all seven charges in the first of several multi-million dollar corruption trials.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering, and abuse of power.

The case against Najib, in office from 2009 to 2018, was widely seen as a test of Malaysia’s anti-corruption efforts.

The scandal around Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund has uncovered a global web of fraud and corruption.

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

What were the accusations?

Tuesday’s verdicts centred on 42 million ringgit ($10m, £7.7m) transferred from the fund to the then-prime minister’s private accounts.

Najib denies all wrongdoing and says he was misled by financial advisors – in particular fugitive financier Jho Low.

Jho Low has been charged in both the US and Malaysia, but also maintains his innocence.

Najib’s defence team argued he was led to believe the funds in his accounts were donated by the Saudi royal family – rather than misappropriated from the state fund.

The charges carry as much as 15 to 20 years in prison each. Before the verdict, Najib said he would appeal if found guilty.

A great deal hung on this verdict.

Whether the former PM would be held accountable for a massive financial scandal on his watch; whether Najib, still a powerful figure in the former ruling party, could eventually make a political comeback.

During the trial the court heard that Najib had spent lavishly on items like jewellery from funds in the account.

For those who have spent years campaigning against corruption and abuses of power, this must be a gratifying verdict.

Najib has said he will appeal, but this first ever conviction of such a senior political figure must hurt his standing in his party, and may allow other potential leaders to emerge.

Malaysian politics has been uncharacteristically volatile since the reformist coalition that defeated Najib collapsed in February.

More on the 1MDB scandal

What is the 1MDB scandal?

The 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund was set up in 2009, when Najib Razak was prime minister, to boost the country’s economic development.

In 2015, questions were raised around its activities after it missed payments owed to banks and bondholders.

Malaysian and US authorities allege that $4.5bn was illicitly plundered from the fund and diverted into private pockets.

The missing money has been linked to luxury real estate, a private jet, Van Gogh and Monet artworks – and even a Hollywood blockbuster, the Wolf of Wall Street.

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AFP / Getty

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A supporter reacts after the verdicts were announced

Last week, US bank Goldman Sachs reached a $3.9bn (£3bn) settlement with the Malaysian government for its role in the multi-billion-dollar corruption scheme.

The deal resolved charges in Malaysia that the bank misled investors when it helped raise $6.5bn for 1MDB.

What else is Najib accused of?

The former prime minister was cleared of all allegations by Malaysian authorities while he was still in office.

Yet the accusations played a big part in his election defeat in 2018 – and the new government swiftly reopened investigations into the 1MDB case.

While Tuesday’s verdict is the first of his trials to be decided, it is not the most significant one.

A separate trial that began last August looks at accusations the former prime minister illicitly obtained 2.28bn ringgit ($550m, £448m) from 1MDB between 2011 and 2014.

He is facing 21 counts of money-laundering and four of abuse of power but again, denies any wrongdoing.

His wife, Rosmah Mansor, also faces money-laundering and tax evasion charges, to which she has pleaded not guilty.

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Huw Evans picture agency

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The corruption allegations played a big part in Najib’s 2018 election defeat

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