Malaysia ex-PM Najib faces verdict in appeal over 1MDB-linked conviction

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Dec 3, 2019. 
PHOTO: Reuters file

KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian appeals court will deliver its verdict on Wednesday (Dec 8) on a bid filed by former Prime Minister Najib Razak to overturn his conviction in a case linked to a corruption scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Najib, who was voted out of office in 2018, has pleaded not guilty to dozens of charges over his involvement in the alleged theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB, a state fund he co-founded as premier in 2009.

In the first of several trials, the 68-year-old was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $50 million (S$68.3 million) last year after being found guilty of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering for illegally receiving about $10 million from SRC International, a former unit of now-defunct 1MDB.

He remains out on bail pending the appeal.

If the conviction is upheld, Najib could request another stay on his sentence and file a further appeal to the Federal Court, Malaysia's top tribunal.

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday ordered proceedings to be conducted online, denying a request by Najib's lawyers to postpone its verdict after a member of his legal team tested positive for Covid-19.

The court also rejected a separate application by defence lawyers, filed last week, to introduce new evidence that they said could help exonerate Najib.

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An acquittal could spur a political resurgence for Najib, who has been on a campaign to rehabilitate his image as a wealthy elite and portray himself as a man of the people.

He remains influential within his party, the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), which returned to power in August after being voted out three years earlier amid widespread corruption allegations.

Najib told Reuters in September he has not ruled out seeking re-election to parliament, a move that would require his conviction to be overturned.

US and Malaysian authorities say $4.5 billion was believed to have been stolen from 1MDB, and that more than $1 billion made its way into Najib's personal accounts.