The first case of many . . .
Malaysia’s Court of Appeal has upheld 2020’s 12-year jail sentence for former Prime Minister Najib Razak in the first of several criminal cases linked to the multi-billion 1MBD graft scandal. Najib is the first Malaysian leader to be found guilty of corruption. Judges agreed that as Minister of Finance and then Prime Minister, Najib approved loans to subsidiaries of the 1MBD sovereign wealth fund, portions of which were subsequently kicked back to Najib and close associates. One wire transfer from a 1MDB subsidiary to Najib’s account reportedly amounted to US$12.5 million. The former PM still has one appeal remaining in this case and remains free and a Member of Parliament.
Pulling down a returning star . . .
The 1MDB corruption scandal is Malaysia’s largest. Close to US$5.7 billion was siphoned off during Najib’s term in office. The scandal is also primarily responsible for the historic defeat and ousting from power of Najib’s political party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), in the 2018 general elections, ending its 61-year rule. And yet, Najib has remained a popular politician with a loyal following despite facing 42 criminal charges, with more trials to come. Najib has made a comeback this year, featuring prominently in UMNO’s sweeping victory in the Melaka state elections, with some observers believing he outshone current prime minister and fellow UMNO member Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Bumpy road ahead, but not the end . . .
Before the appellate court’s decision, many Malaysians felt the disgraced Najib would be let off the hook, while political rivals speculated that the former PM may become prime minister again if general elections were called in early 2022. Najib and UNMO allies have been pushing for such a timeline to ride the momentum from the Melaka elections. Many feel Najib will make another run for the prime ministerial office, given his strong supporter base, and the protection from further prosecution that accompanies the top job. However, roadblocks will mount in the coming months, including UMNO factions competing for power and more 1MBD criminal cases going to court. Whenever it happens, Malaysia’s next election will be full of intrigue.
- CNA: Malaysia’s appeal court upholds Najib’s 1MBD-linked conviction, calls his actions a ‘national embarrassment’
- Malaysiakini: Court unanimously throws out Najib’s appeal, allows stay of execution
- South China Morning Post: In Malaysia, Najib Razak’s comeback hopes gain steam as rivals falter in Malacca state polls