Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to jail Tuesday in the first criminal trial linked to the massive 1MDB financial scandal.
A judge in Kuala Lumpur found Najib guilty of seven charges he faced for allegedly receiving about $10 million from a former unit of 1Malaysia Development Berhad, the state-backed development fund at the heart of the embezzlement scheme.
High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali sentenced Najib, 67, to 12 years behind bars and fined him about $49 million for the charges of money laundering, abuse of position and criminal breach of trust, according to Bernama, Malaysia’s government news agency.
The case that concluded Tuesday involved a tiny fraction of the more than $1 billion that prosecutors say flowed from 1MDB to Najib’s personal bank accounts. The former leader who was defeated in 2018 after nearly a decade in office faces more than 40 criminal charges over the allegedly misappropriated money.
Malaysian and American authorities say some $4.5 billion was looted from 1MDB in a scheme helmed by playboy financier Jho Low, who is still on the lam. Some of the money was allegedly used to finance the Oscar-nominated movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” and to make lavish purchases including a $27 million pink diamond necklace for Najib’s wife.
Najib’s lawyers argued that Low and others duped the former prime minister into thinking the money that landed in his accounts came from the Saudi royal family rather than SRC International, the former 1MDB unit a claim the judge called “far fetched.” Low has denied wrongdoing.
Tuesday’s verdict came four days after Goldman Sachs announced a $3.9 billion settlement with Malaysian authorities over its alleged role in the 1MDB scandal. The New York-based investment bank oversaw bond sales that raised about $6.5 billion for 1MDB — some of which was allegedly stolen — and netted Goldman about $600 million in fees.