The first Malaysian leader to be found guilty of graft on Tuesday was the country’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
A court on Tuesday ruled that he was guilty of all seven charges of corruption brought against him in the first of several cases relating to the alleged heist of billions of dollars from state fund 1MDB.
Any reasonable doubts about the role of Najib in diverting and siphoning off an estimated 42 million ringgit ($9.8m today) from SRC International, a unit of 1MDB, into his personal bank accounts had not been able to be raised by the defence, said the judge Mohd Nazlan Ghazali.
“I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. I therefore find accused guilty and convict the accused on all seven charges,” he said, while referring to the allegations of abuse of power, as well as several counts of money laundering and criminal breach of trust.
Najib, who had also held the position of the finance minister of the country, “acted outside the limits of the permissible conduct” in the process of loan approvals, that was later transformed into a source for siphoning off funds from the fund to his personal bank account. Judge Mohd Nazlan said at one point during the reading of the verdict.
The approval of the loans had “benefitted” Najib, the Judge said and added that no amount of reasonable doubt over the offence of abuse of power, which was the first of the seven charges pressed against Najib, had been manged to be raised by Najib’s defence.
After his conviction, it is likely that the former prime minister will face quantum of decades in jail along with hefty fines. And even though Malaysian laws also carry the punishment of whipping, it is likely that he would be spared this punished considering that he is 69 years old.
It was just six days ago that Najiob was ordered by the High Court of the country to pay as much as 1.69 billion ringgit ($400m) to the government against unpaid taxes and penalties for the period between 2011 and 2017.
The decision on SRC was welcomed by Tony Pua, an opposition MP who played a key role in exposing the scandal at 1MDB.
“After months of depressing news when the mandate of the people in 2018 was robbed by those who betrayed their trust, today, Malaysians look to celebrate as the judiciary demonstrates its teeth and impartiality,” Pua told the media. “It’s not over yet, but it’s a big, big step in the right direction.”
Well before the verdict was pronounced by the court, hundreds of Najib’s supporters had assembled outside the court room to showcase their support for the politician. The supporters deemed the verdict to be “political vengeance”.
“Long live my boss”, shouted several of his supporters waiting outside the court.
According to investigations conducted by the United States Department of Justice, during Najib’s time as prime minister, about $4.5bn in government money had been siphoned off from 1MDB.
(Adapted from AlJazeera.com)