Malaysia’s former PM Najib Razak loses final bid to review graft conviction

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters): Malaysia’s top court on Friday dismissed a bid by jailed former prime minister Najib Razak to review his corruption conviction over the multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB, ending Najib’s judicial efforts to challenge the guilty verdict.

Najib became the first Malaysian premier to be imprisoned after Malaysia’s Federal Court upheld a guilty verdict and 12-year prison sentence handed down to him by a lower court.

Najib, 69, can no longer challenge the conviction in court, but he has applied for a royal pardon which if successful could see him released without serving the full 12-year term.

Federal Court Judge Vernon Ong said a five-member panel voted 4-1 to dismiss Najib’s application to review the conviction.

There was no miscarriage of justice in the top court’s decision last year, he said, adding that a review was granted only in “very limited and exceptional circumstances.”

“In the final analysis, and having regard to all circumstances, we are constrained to say that the applicant (Najib) was the author of his own misfortunes,” Ong said.

Najib’s lawyer Shafee Abdullah said there was a possibility of another action in court due to the dissenting view of one judge.

“As a result of the minority judgment, there is an avenue that is open,” Shafee told reporters. He declined to say what action his client would pursue.

US and Malaysian investigators have said some $4.5 billion was stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) — co-founded by Najib during his first year as prime minister in 2009 — and that more than $1 billion went to accounts linked to Najib.

Various recipients of the siphoned 1MDB funds used the money to buy luxury assets and real estate, a Picasso painting, a private jet, a superyacht, hotels, jewelry and to finance the 2013 Hollywood film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” investigators have said.

Najib suppressed Malaysian investigations of the wide-ranging 1MDB scandal during his leadership even as global probes continued, but was charged after he lost a general election in 2018.

The British-educated son of Malay nobility held the premiership from 2009 to 2018, when public anger over the graft scandal brought election defeat.

He was found guilty by a high court in 2020 of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering for illegally receiving about $10 million from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB. He lost all his appeals.

Najib faces three other trials related to graft at 1MDB and other government agencies.

The former premier has consistently pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.