Malaysian appeal court upholds ex-PM Najib's 1MDB conviction
Putrajaya (Malaysia) (AFP) – A Malaysian appeal court on Wednesday upheld former leader Najib Razak's corruption conviction and 12-year jail term over the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal, which contributed to his government's downfall in 2018.
But Najib, who has been free on bail while he appeals, is now expected to lodge a final legal challenge at the country's top court.
The 68-year-old was found guilty on all counts last year in the first of several trials he is facing related to the looting of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad sovereign wealth fund.
Najib and his cronies were accused of stealing billions of dollars from the investment vehicle and spending it on everything from high-end real estate to pricey art.
His first trial related to the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($9.9 million) from a former 1MDB unit to his bank accounts.
He challenged last year's High Court ruling at the Court of Appeal, but judge Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil Wednesday upheld Najib's conviction on all seven charges he faced.
The ex-premier "had active knowledge of the 42 million ringgit (sent) into his account and dishonestly misappropriated it", the judge told the court in administrative capital Putrajaya.
Najib was convicted of abuse of power, money-laundering and criminal breach of trust over the transfer. As well as the jail term, he was fined almost $50 million.
Judge Karim also rejected Najib's defence that he believed the money was a donation from Saudi royalty, saying there was "no evidence" for the claim.
Najib and his lawyers were not in court for the ruling and followed the proceedings online, after a member of the legal team tested positive for Covid-19.
Anger at the plunder played a large part in the shock loss of Najib's long-ruling coalition at elections in 2018, and he was arrested and hit with dozens of charges following his defeat.
Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
His lawyers had sought to delay Wednesday's ruling over the Covid case in Najib's legal team, and by seeking to introduce new evidence at the 11th hour as part of the appeal.
But the court rejected both moves.
Najib is now expected to turn to Malaysia's top court for a final appeal, which could drag on for months, and he could remain free on bail until that wraps up.
If Najib -- who remains an MP -- loses that challenge, he will be jailed and barred from holding political office.
Despite his graft conviction, he remains popular and influential, and has been mounting a political comeback in recent months.
The blue-blooded politician, whose father and uncle were both prime ministers, projects himself as a man of the people and has 4.6 million followers on Facebook, where he frequently comments on the news and criticises rivals.
© 2021 AFP