KUALA LUMPUR – A Malaysian court sentenced former Prime Minister Najib Razak to serve 12 years in prison on Tuesday after finding him guilty in the first of several corruption trials linked to the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB state investment fund that brought down his government two years ago.
Najib, 67, was calm and stone-faced as he became the first Malaysian leader to be convicted, in what opposition lawmakers hailed as a victory for the people. Najib said he was disappointed with the ruling and vowed to fight to the end.
Judge Mohamad Nazlan Ghazali sentenced Najib to 12 years in jail on one count of abuse of power, 10 years each for three counts of criminal breach of trust, and 10 years each for three counts of money laundering, as well as a fine of 210 million ringgit ($49.4 million). But he ordered the sentences to run concurrently, meaning that Najib will face only up to 12 years in jail.
The judge allowed a stay of the jail sentence and fine pending Najib’s planned appeal. But he raised the bail amount and ordered Najib to report to the police twice a month.
“This is definitely not the end of the world, because there is a process of appeal,” Najib told a news conference after the sentencing. “As to my supporters, I hope they will continue to believe in me and believe in our struggle.”
Najib’s father and uncle were Malaysia’s second and third prime ministers. Shortly after he took office in 2009, he set up 1MDB to ostensibly accelerate Malaysia’s economic development.
But the fund accumulated billions in debt, and U.S. investigators allege that at least $4.5 billion was stolen from it and laundered by Najib’s associates to finance Hollywood films and buy hotels, a luxury yacht, artwork, jewelry and other extravagances. More than $700 million from the fund allegedly landed in Najib’s bank accounts.
The judge read out an elaborate two-hour ruling on Tuesday that found Najib guilty of all seven charges.