Malaysia's Najib Razak Found Guilty in 1MDB Scam Trial, Faces 20 Years in Jail

The former Malaysian PM has been found guilty of illegally transferring funds from state-owned 1MDB into his private accounts.

Najib Razak, who served as the Prime Minister of Malaysia from 2009 to 2018, has been declared guilty on all seven charges against him in one of the cases related to the 1MDB scam. The former PM was accused of transferring RM42 million, which amounts to around $9.8 million, into his personal account from the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund.

1MDB is a state-owned company which was meant to drive development in several sectors of the economy. It was also expected to garner greater foreign direct investment for the country. However, strong suspicions about the functioning of the company some years ago forced the then-PM Najib to order an enquiry into the company's finances in 2015.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at the Beijing Capital International Aiport
Former Prime Minister Najib Razak faces up to 20 years in jail Reuters

Framing of the Charges

Initially, the PM wasn't found to involved in any wrongdoing despite being the chairman of the Board of Advisors. After he was ousted in the 2018 elections and Mahathir Mohammad became the PM, the latter ordered a fresh investigation into the matter along with auditing of the company's funds by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Eventually, the ex-PM faced seven charges, three of money laundering, three of criminal breach of trust, and one of abuse of power. The High Court pronounced him guilty on all seven charges. But that's not where the ordeal of Najib ends. There are two more cases against him related to the 1MDB scam, one involving the illegal transfer of funds worth RM27 million.


Justice Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali presided over the case and stated in its judgement: "I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. I therefore find the accused guilty and convict the accused on all seven charges."

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
The government of Mahathir Mohammad pursued the case with great vigour after taking over in 2018 Wikimedia Commons

Justice Ghazali also pointed out the failure of the defence in countering the strong case made by the prosecution. The judge said that Najib's counsel "has not succeeded in rebutting the presumption on the balance of probabilities or raising reasonable doubt."

The ex-PM now faces a jail term that can be as long as 20 years. It ought to be remembered that this issue played a key part in the 2018 general elections as well. Analysts attribute Najib's ousting from the PM's office to the damage caused by the scandal to his and his government's reputation.

In his defence, Najib had claimed that he was not aware of the money transfers and put the blame on Low Taek Jho, a financier who is currently a fugitive. However, his lawyers could not prove his innocence. Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor is also in the dock facing similar charges as her husband. Her fate lies in the future.