A Malaysian court sentenced former Prime Minister Najib Razak to serve up to 12 years in prison on Tuesday after finding him guilty of crimes involving the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB state investment fund that brought down his government in a shocking election ouster two years ago.
Najib was calm and stone-faced as he became the first Malaysian leader to be convicted. He has vowed to appeal the verdict and took an oath in brief remarks from the dock before the sentencing that he was unaware of the graft.
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 (USD 49.4 million). But he ordered the sentences to run concurrently, meaning that Najib will face up to 12 years in jail.
The judge said the sentence was "appropriate and proportionate" taking into account that Najib had committed the crime from a "position of trust" as prime minister, his final plea and the need to deter others from committing the same crime.
The ruling in the first of his five corruption trials came five months after Najib's Malay party returned to government as the biggest bloc in an alliance that took power from the reformist government that ousted Najib's in 2018.
"I find the accused guilty and convict the accused of all seven charges," the judge said after spending two hours reading out an elaborate ruling.
Najib's lawyers had argued for a light sentence, saying the defence was "crippled" by the judge's refusal to delay the sentencing arguments until next week.
Prosecutors said the case had tarnished the country as a kleptocracy and sought a sentence that would remind those in high public office that "no one is above the law." Speaking from the dock, Najib asked the court to take into account his achievements during his nine-year tenure and gave an oath that he wasn't aware of the 42 million ringgit (USD 9.8 million) channeled into his bank accounts from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.
"I did not demand the 42 million, I did not plan for the 42 million, nor was the 42 million offered to me. There has been no evidence nor witness to this. And I also like to say that I have no knowledge of the 42 million," Najib insisted.
Najib, 67, has vowed to fight to the end. He has said he was misled by rogue bankers and the case against him is political.
"I want justice. I want to clear my name," he wrote on Facebook late Monday. "After this, we will go to the Court of Appeal. I am ready."