Former Malaysian prime minister faces jail time due to political scandal

October 25, 2020
Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak kept claiming his innocence for several years. He had not stolen any money, and the allegations against him were just ”vile” and ”malicious”. But in July this year the final verdict was made, Razak was found guilty and he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Former prime minister Najib Razak. 
Source: World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons 
The allegations against the former prime minister started with a report in the Wall Street Journal, published in early July 2015. The report stated that government investigators had exposed almost 700million USD that had been transferred through government agencies, banks and companies connected to the 1Malaysia Development Berhard, before being put in the prime ministers own personal accounts.

Malaysia Development Berhard, also known as 1MDB, is a company that was launched by Razak in 2009. ”Malaysia” comes from the name of a programme, which was introduced by Razak in 2009 and officially designed in 2010, that calls for the cabinet, government agencies and civil servants to put more importance into ethnic harmony, national unity, and efficient governance.
The 1Malaysia logo. 
Source: © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas, via Wikimedia Commons.
The company has a focus on strategic development and is completely owned by the government of Malaysia. Its role is to, with sustainability and inclusiveness in mind, lead market-driven initiatives that will turn Malaysia into a highly developed nation.

Najib claimed that the report posted by Wall Street Journal was political sabotage, and that the allegations were “vile” and “malicious”. MDB also voiced that no wrongdoings had taken place, but the scandal kicked up a storm in Malaysia, and the scandal is still going on now, 5 years later. 

How could five years have passed without Najib facing any jail time? Al Jazeera published an article in July this year that explains the timeline of this scandal, including Najib’s sneaky strategies. 

In January 2015, 1MDB failed to pay back a loan of 550 million USD, which led to Malaysia’s government being pressured into establishing a special “task force” to investigate what 1MDB was up to. According to Al Jazeera statements from both the Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report said in July that around 700million USD, that originally belonged to the 1MDB, was transferred into Najib’s accounts. As a result of this Najib fired the attorney general in charge of the Malaysian investigation that led to these accusations. He reorganised his cabinet and even kicked out the deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin. In this way all the main critics were gone, and the investigation was shut down.

A new attorney general was assigned, and in January 2016 Najib were cleared of any charges made against him. The statement now was that the nearly 700million dollars, 681 million dollars to be exact, found in Najib’s account was a gift from the prince of Saudi Arabia, and 620million dollars had been returned. This seemed to be the deal until July the same year when the US Department of Justice files a civil suit to take hold of assets that was claimed to have been bought with money stolen from the 1MDB. It was also stated in the civil suit that the money was stolen by “Malaysian Official 1”, which the US and a Malaysian minister later identified as Najib. The amount claimed to have been stolen was 681 million USD.

Around a year later the justice department made another statement. They believed that a total of around 4.5 billion had been stolen from the 1MDB by senior officials and their associates. This led to a criminal investigation of the fund in August 2017. The attorney general described the scandal as “kleptocracy at its worst”. 

In 2018 Najib faced a lot of setbacks. It started in May when he was defeated in Malaysia’s general election and stripped of the power he once held. In June Najib and his wife was barred from leaving Malaysia, and things worth 275million USD was also seized. Furthermore, Najib faced his first charges in connection to the 1MDB in July. 

Najib appeared in the high court in Kuala Lumpur on April 3rd 2019, where he faced seven charges connected to SRC International, which is a part of the 1MDB. During that first trial Najib asserted that he was innocent on all seven charges.

The biggest of the five trials took place in August that same year, where it was stated that Najib had put on an “elaborate charade”, and his ultimate goal was to make money and become rich. 

In December Najib took the stand in his own defence and read from a prepared written statement. His witness statement was very long, however much of it was just a lot of repetition of him saying that he was “shocked” regarding the occurred allegations, and that he didn’t know how that kind of money had ended up in his bank account.

5 years has passed since that first allegation was written about Najib stealing money from the company he had a part in launching, and three years since he faced his first charges. For five years, he claimed innocence. The money found in his account was a gift and he was misled. However, his claims of innocence only got him so far. In July this year Najib was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in jail. For now the former prime minister is seemingly keeping calm, making statements like it is not a big deal, and it will work itself out, but the future is looking quite bleak
Camilia el-sayed
Co-Founder and Head of Politics
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