Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been found guilty of all charges in his first trial case on Tuesday. He was accused of illegally receiving $10m (RM42m) from SRC International, a former unit of state fund 1MDB. Najib faced seven charges in total, three of which were of money laundering, three were of criminal breach of trust and one was of abuse of power. The sum is believed to have been transferred to his personal bank account from SRC International, which he chairs.
Najib has denied any wrongdoing and accused the current government of pursuing a vendetta against him, which he said could lead to instability in the country. He had said that he did not know the money was being transferred into his account, and his lawyers have argued that he was the victim of a conspiracy, involving rogue bankers, aimed at removing him from office.
His trial, which began in April 2019, was closely watched, and verdicts are expected in two other cases in which Najib has been accused of 1MDB-related charges. The former Prime Minister faces a maximum 15 years in prison for each of the money-laundering and criminal breach of trust convictions and up to 20 years for abuse of power. The prosecution’s case is that Najib had set up SRC International to advance his personal interests.
Najib has already been found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in jail in a separate trial relating to $9.5m (RM42m) of other funds related to 1MDB. Najib was the Prime Minister of Malaysia for nine years until his defeat in 2018.
The verdict of this case is a decisive victory for Malaysia’s current Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, who came to power unexpectedly in March after a power struggle and defections by government MPs. Yassin’s government, fighting against the spread of Covid-19, is seeking to restore faith in Malaysia’s democracy by rooting out corruption.
Economic analysts have said that Najib’s conviction could further impact Malaysia’s economy, which is already suffering due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The falling oil prices add to the situation, and it is expected that the economy will contract this year. Some believe that Najib’s sensational downfall – he was once considered to be untouchable – could have a positive effect, as it may encourage better governance and greater transparency.