Imprisoned Malaysian ex-Prime Minister Najib returns to court for 1MDB trial

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — Imprisoned Malaysian ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak returned to court on Thursday for a second corruption trial linked to the stealing of the 1MDB state fund, two days after being sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud.

Najib, 69, was jailed on Tuesday after the country’s highest court dismissed its latest appeal in its first bribery case over the looting of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund. His incarceration comes four years after his election over the scandal and has been celebrated as justice by many citizens.

Najib was wearing a dark blue suit, red tie and face mask and sat unmoved in the dock without handcuffs when the hearing began. He was previously taken into the court complex in a tinted police vehicle under heavy security to prevent a crowd of media waiting to glimpse him.

Najib’s daughter, Nooryana Najwa Najib, wrote on Instagram late Wednesday that a team of lawyers had met her father earlier in the day and that his “fighting spirit is still strong”. to prison life.

The current trial began in August 2019 and is most significant as it directly links Najib to the 1MDB scandal that has sparked investigations in the US and several other countries. Prosecutors allege that Najib stole billions of dollars from 1MDB through an “extensive charade” and then tried to cover his tracks. Najib says he was misled into believing it was a donation from Saudi Arabia’s royal family.

Najib faces four charges of abusing his power to obtain 2.3 billion ringgit (more than $700 million in exchange rate at the time) from 1MDB between 2011 and 2014, and 21 counts of money laundering of the same amount. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each count of abuse of power and up to five years for each of the money laundering charges.

1MDB was a development fund that Najib established shortly after taking power in 2009. Investigators allege that more than $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib’s employees through multiple bank accounts in the US and other countries to buy Hollywood movies and extravagant purchases. finance including hotels, a luxury yacht, works of art and jewelry.

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The scandal led to the 2018 general election ousting of Najib’s United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, which had been in power since the country’s independence from the British in 1957. The new government opened investigations into 1MDB operating under the regime. of Najib were suppressed, and blocked Najib and his wife from leaving the country.

Najib faces dozens of charges for criminal breach of trust, bribery, abuse of power and money laundering in a total of five criminal cases related to 1MDB. His wife, Rosmah Mansor, and other senior government officials have also been taken to court for corruption.

The Supreme Court will rule on Sept. 1 in Rosmah’s corruption trial related to a 1.25 billion ringgit ($279 million) solar energy project.

Najib was found guilty in 2020 on seven corruption charges for illegally receiving $9.4 million from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB. The country’s highest court upheld the decision on Tuesday and sent Najib directly to jail to begin his sentence.

Najib insists he was tricked by fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho and other bankers into believing the money that came into his personal accounts was an Arab donation. Low, who was identified by US investigators as the mastermind behind the fund stealing, is wanted in both the US and Malaysia, but is hiding.

Despite his conviction, Najib remains influential in his UMNO party, which returned to power after apostasy caused the collapse of the reformist government that won the 2018 polls.

Najib will not be able to run in the general election to be held in September 2023 unless he is granted a royal pardon. His supporters have called on the king of the country to give Najib a royal pardon, but opponents say he must serve his sentence to deter leaders who believe they can abuse their power.

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