Malaysia ex-PM begins final bid to quash corruption conviction

The Supreme Court of the country will hear the appeals of those convicted in cases of breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak launched a last-ditch effort on Monday to set aside his conviction in a corruption case related to the multibillion-dollar 1MDB financial scam.

The country’s Supreme Court will hold hearings until August 26 to hear an appeal by Najib, who was found guilty of breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering over the alleged theft of $4.5 billion from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Premiered in 2009.

At least six countries have launched investigations into the global 1MDB scandal involving high-level officials and major financial institutions.

Prosecutors say more than $1bn in 1MDB funds entered Najib’s personal accounts.

Najib, 69, who pleaded not guilty to dozens of charges, was sentenced in July 2020 to 12 years in prison after multiple trials and a $50m fine for illegally receiving nearly $10 million from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit.

The sentence was upheld by the Court of Appeal last year.

In addition to appealing that verdict, Najib is asking the federal court to introduce new evidence to overturn the case, accusing the trial judge of a conflict of interest, documents filed ahead of Monday’s hearing showed.

Najib, who was voted out in 2018, is out on bail pending an appeal. If the verdict is upheld, he will likely begin his sentence immediately, prosecutors said. Malaysian law allows federal court decisions to be reviewed, but such applications are rarely successful.

The appeal comes ahead of national elections expected to be called before the September 2023 deadline.

The acquittal could mark a political comeback for Najib, who told the Reuters news agency last year that he had not ruled out re-election to parliament.

Although he is a popular figure and an active legislator, Najib is barred from contesting elections unless his conviction is overturned or he receives a royal pardon.

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