Najib seeks to admit new evidence
Move final bid to overturn Malaysia ex-PM conviction
Published: Aug 15, 2022 09:21 PM
Lawyers for former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak sought Monday to introduce fresh evidence for a retrial, a final bid to overturn a 12-year jail term over a corruption case linked to the multibillion dollar 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) scandal.

Najib, 69, has pleaded not guilty to dozens of charges over the alleged theft of $4.5 billion from 1MDB, a state fund he co-founded as premier in 2009. The scandal has ensnared high-ranking officials and financial institutions around the world. 

Prosecutors say more than $1 billion in 1MDB funds made its way into Najib's personal accounts.

In July 2020, Najib was convicted in the first of several trials of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering, for illegally receiving about $10 million from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit. An appeals court upheld the conviction in 2021. 

Najib has been sentenced to 12 years of jail and a 210 million ringgit ($49.4 million) fine for abuse of power; 10 years of jail for each of the three criminal breach of trust; and 10 years of jail for each of the three money-laundering. All jail sentences will run concurrently, meaning that Najib will remain at least 12 years in prison. 

"The court rules that prosecution has successfully proven all seven charges of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering," Judge Abdul Karim said after the December 2021 decision.

In a press briefing following the December 2021 court ­proceedings, Lead prosecutor V. Sithambaram said the decision to uphold the earlier conviction has vindicated the efforts of the prosecution's efforts in the case. "We are happy that the view that the prosecution took has been proven to be correct and there was no extraneous considerations or other motives in our prosecution," he said.

The Federal Court has scheduled hearings through August 26 to hear Najib's final appeal.

If it fails, Najib will probably begin his sentence immediately. Malaysian law allows for a review of Federal Court decisions, but such applications are rarely successful.

Najib's lawyer, Hisyam Teh, asked the court on Monday to admit evidence allegedly showing that the trial judge who convicted the ex-premier had a conflict of interest, due to his previous employment at a bank that had provided a loan to 1MDB.

Sithambaram however described the defense's request as "flawed and self-serving," saying that the judge's employment record was publicly known before the trial and that his work at the bank was irrelevant to the charges facing Najib.

The five-member panel of judges will likely decide on Tuesday whether to allow the defence's motion.

In his main appeal, Najib has cited 94 grounds for why he should be acquitted, including that lower courts had erred in some of their findings, documents submitted before the hearing showed.

The appeal comes ahead of national elections that are expected to be called before a September 2023 deadline.

While he remains a popular figure and active lawmaker, Najib is barred from contesting elections unless his conviction is overturned or he receives a royal pardon.