The conviction and 12-year sentence of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak for the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal, which contributed to his government's downfall in 2018, were sustained by a Malaysian appeal court on Wednesday.
In the first of multiple trials relating to stealing the 1Malaysia Development Berhad sovereign wealth fund, the 68-year-old was convicted guilty on all counts last year.
Najib and his associates were accused of stealing billions of dollars from the investment vehicle and spending it on high-end real estate and expensive art.
Najib Razak's appeal against graft charges thrown out
The first trial concerned the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($9.9 million) from a defunct 1MDB subsidiary to Najib's bank accounts. The ex-premier is set to file a last-ditch appeal at Malaysia's highest court, and he might be released on bail until the appeal is resolved, NDTV reported.
Judge Abdul Karim agreed to Najib's plea to be released on bail again pending the appeal, and the sentence was suspended. Shafee Abdullah, Najib's lawyer, told the court that the former Prime Minister would appeal the decision to Malaysia's highest court, the Federal Court.
After the conviction, Deputy Prosecutor V. Sithambaram warned reporters that Najib's appeal to the Supreme Court might take up to nine months, as per CNN. Najib, who was wearing a black suit, showed little expression as the verdict was read out and was periodically spotted taking notes during the hearing.
According to US and Malaysian officials, $4.5 billion was allegedly stolen from 1MDB, with more than $1 billion ending up in Najib's accounts. Najib faces 42 criminal charges and five trials, one of which being the SRC case.
He has clout inside his party, which was ousted three years ago after massive corruption charges. He's also considering a political return, telling Reuters in September that he hasn't ruled out running for re-election to Parliament, which would need his conviction being reversed.
What next for Najib Razak?
Evidence presented during the trial revealed an intricate trail of ill-gotten monies used for his house renovation, credit card purchases, including a Chanel watch purchased in Hawaii as a birthday gift for his wife, and political contributions.
Per Republic World, Najib faces 42 charges in five separate trials, some of which are still ongoing. His wife is also accused of corruption. Najib, who has been the Prime Minister of Malaysia since April 2009, has also been fined 210 million ringgits for his crimes.
According to Laprensalatina Media, the former prime minister has disputed all of the charges against him and claims that the money sent to his personal accounts was a gift from a Saudi prince. The judgment can be appealed to the Federal Court, the country's highest court, by Najib, who was agitated as the verdict was read out.
The appeals court approved the defense's request for a stay of execution pending a final appeal. Najib will be on parole till then. Meanwhile, despite his conviction for fraud, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak continues to wield political influence, and his United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party has recovered from a disastrous election loss in 2018.
UMNO was re-elected in March 2020 as part of a new alliance that ousted the reformist government that had won the 2018 elections. In August, UMNO recaptured the premiership after a power struggle when one of its members was chosen the country's new prime minister.