Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has been found guilty on all seven corruption charges in his first trial linked to a multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The landmark case has been widely seen as a test for the country’s efforts to stamp out corruption and could have big political implications for the South-East Asian nation.
“After considering all evidence in this trial, I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a resonable doubt,” Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali said on Tuesday.
Najib faced seven charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power for allegedly illegally receiving nearly $US10 million from former 1MDB unit SRC International. He had plead not guilty.
Each of the charges carry hefty fines and jail terms of up to 15 or 20 years. Najib’s lawyers are seeking a delay in sentencing. Najib has said he would appeal any decision at the federal court.
The former prime minister, who was voted out in a historic 2018 election, still faces multiple criminal charges over allegations that $US4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB.
Prosecutors allege more than $US1 billion of the funds made its way into his personal accounts.
The former premier arrived in court to shouts of “long live Najib” by hundreds of supporters who had gathered outside.
Wearing a mask and flanked by top leaders of his party, Najib offered prayers just outside the courtroom.
Najib’s lawyers say he was misled by Malaysian financier Jho Low and other 1MDB officials into believing that the funds banked into his accounts were donated by the Saudi royal family, rather than misappropriated from SRC as prosecutors have alleged. Low denies wrongdoing.
Allegations of corruption over 1MDB have hung over Najib for more than five years. But the criminal charges came only after his defeat in the 2018 election when his successor Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations.
The closely-watched case is seen as a test of Malaysia’s efforts to root out corruption, after Najib’s party was returned to power in February as part of an alliance led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
The verdict could have far reaching political implications.
The guilty verdict could boost Muhyiddin’s credibility with the public, but weaken his coalition, which counts Najib’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) as its biggest component – and potentially trigger snap polls.
The court’s decision comes just days after Malaysia reached a $US3.9 billion deal with Goldman Sachs over its role in helping 1MDB raise money.