Mar 30, 2023
Najib Razak to Stay Put in Jail After Court Rejects Review of 1MDB-Linked Conviction
(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia’s highest court rejected Najib Razak’s application to review his conviction related to the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal, in a fresh blow to the jailed former prime minister.
Najib’s arguments had no merit and is dismissed, according to Judge Vernon Ong, who read out the majority decision on behalf of the five-person Federal Court bench on Friday. Najib had not been denied a fair trial and he was the “author of his own misfortune,” the judge added.
The decision means Najib will remain behind bars to serve out his 12-year prison term for his role in 1MDB. The former prime minister has exhausted all avenues of appeal, according to prosecutor V. Sithambaram. “This is a vindication that the charges against Najib were legally mounted and not politically motivated,” he told a press conference after the court decision.
Najib, 69, had asked for his conviction to be set aside and for another Federal Court bench to rehear his appeal. This was after the apex court last year upheld an earlier ruling sentencing him over the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($9.7 million) belonging to SRC International to his personal bank account. SRC is a former unit of 1MDB, an investment fund that had billions of dollars siphoned off across the globe.
READ: How Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal Shook the Financial World: QuickTake
Najib’s review was sought on four grounds, including that the High Court judge who convicted him in 2020 allegedly had a conflict of interest. The Federal Court in a ruling that was split 4-1 dismissed all four of the defense team’s arguments.
One judge dissented, noting that after Najib’s defense lawyer refused to present during the appeals last year, the prosecution had two days to argue their case. “The applicant could not argue his own case although he was formerly a prime minister. An applicant that cannot be represented hence faces injustice,” said Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abdul Rahman Sebli.
Najib’s lawyer Shafee Abdullah said he was encouraged by the dissenting judgment.
Najib has applied for a royal pardon, but remains on trial for dozens of other criminal charges linked to the troubled state fund, each carrying prison terms and hefty financial penalties. Earlier this month, he was acquitted in a separate 1MDB trial related to the government audit report.
Najib was first convicted in July 2020 on charges of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust involving SRC. The Court of Appeal in December 2021 maintained the 210 million ringgit fine and jail term, with a judge referring to Najib’s actions as a “national embarrassment.” He mounted a final appeal before the Federal Court while being out on bail and lost again.
“This is the biggest message to politicians or other likely offenders,” said prosecutor Sithambaram. “This shows that no man in this land is above the law. And I want to stress that this case must send a chilling message to would-be offenders that the law will catch up with you and punish the guilty.”
(Updates with comments from prosecutor, Najib’s lawyer)
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