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Ex-Malaysian Leader Najib Razak Begins Jail Term over Corruption

Former Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak has been jailed for 12 years over corruption charges. He was convicted in 2020 for a corruption scandal related to the state-owned wealth fund, 1MDB (1 Malaysia Development Berhad). Out on bail, Razak maintained that he wasn’t involved in any wrongdoing and tried appealing to the court for pardon. However, the court rejected his appeal and denied the request to delay his sentence. Hence, he would be starting his 12-year sentence starting from today, August 23, 2022.

Najib Razak Tries to Defends Himself

The court found Najib Razak guilty in 2020 on 7 counts, including money laundering, abuse of power, and criminal breach of trust. All of these counts revolve around an illegal transfer of 9.3 million USD from the 1MDB state fund to his personal account. Razak co-founded the fund during his tenure in 2009. Apart from the 12-year sentence, he has also received a fine of 46.8 million USD.

In his defence, the convicted leader portrayed himself as the victim of justice. His lawyers argued that their client was unaware that the money in his account was embezzled from the 1MDB state fund. They said he was “led to believe” that the Saudi royal family sent that money to his account. The defence blamed financial advisors for misleading Razak. They particularly mentioned Jho Low, a wanted fugitive businessman charged in Malaysia and the US.

In the last gasp effort, Razak’s lawyers pushed for the removal of Cheif Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat from the judges’ panel. They claimed she could be biased as her husband criticized Najib on Facebook in 2018. However, she denied the request as the critical post was made before Razak was charged. The Chief Justice said that Razak’s appeal was “devoid of any merit” and his conviction and sentence were “safe”.

First Chapter of a Long Saga

Najib Razak has become the first ever former prime minister in Malaysia to go to jail. He has long portrayed himself as the victim of political persecution, but this verdict has removed all doubts. The UK-graduated former PM was the son of one of the founders of Malaysia, Abdul Razak Hussein. He was groomed to be a future leader from a very young age.

He came to power as the 6th prime minister of Malaysia in 2009 after Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stepped down as the leader of the national party UMNO (United Malays National Organisation). It paved the way for Razak to win the UMNO presidency without contest and later swear in as the PM. Shortly after, he launched the 1MDB fund as an economic development project. However, after 9 years, the same project proved to be his downfall.

This is only the first of at least 5 cases against him regarding 1MDB. Moreover, this case only involves a former unit of 1MDB and is regarded as the most “less complex” of the bunch.

One of the World’s Greatest Financial Scandal

Najib Razak established the 1MDB fund in 2009 to manage the abundance of resources in Malaysia. However, since 2015, the critics have raised suspicions based on missed payments to banks and bondholders. In 2016, the US alleged that some corrupt officials had plundered more than 4.5 million USD after treating the 1MDB fund as their personal bank account. They also said that one top official received 681 million USD, which was later revealed as Razak by his own government. At that time, he was cleared due to being in office, but after a shocking defeat to his party in 2018, the dynamic changed. Police raided a number of his properties and seized luxury items and 28.6 million USD in cash.

Razak’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, also faces separate charges for tax evasion and money laundering. Although she has pleaded not guilty to all charges, the court will deliver the verdict on her on September 1. Mansor’s penchant for luxury items and larger-than-life persona have made her a target of mockery by the general Malaysian public. More of Razak’s associates in the 1MDB case include Goldman Sachs banker Timothy Leissner, another former PM Mahathir Mohamad, and the Chinese-Malaysian fugitive Jho Low, famous for partying with celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, and Paris Hilton.

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