PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA (AFP) – Malaysia’s highest court said yesterday it would hear former leader Najib Razak’s final bid to overturn his 12-year jail sentence for corruption, with an acquittal potentially clearing the way for his return to power.
The appeal is the last high stakes court gambit left open to Najib – but if he is unsuccessful he will have to start serving his jail sentence after years of legal wrangling.
The Federal Court’s decision to proceed with an appeal, which will begin tomorrow, came after it rejected the former prime minister’s plea for a retrial.
Najib, 69, and his ruling party were unceremoniously tossed out of office in 2018 elections following allegations of their involvement in a multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB.
The former prime minister and his associates were accused of stealing billions of dollars from the country’s investment vehicle and spending it on everything from high-end real estate to pricey art.
Following a lengthy High Court trial, Najib was found guilty of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust over the transfer of MYR42 million (USD10.1 million) from a former 1MDB unit to his bank account. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail in July 2020, and an appellate court last December rejected his appeal, prompting him to mount a final plea before the Federal Court, where any ruling will be final.
Najib had been hoping the court would grant a full retrial but that request was unanimously rejected by a panel of five judges yesterday.
“There is, to our minds, no miscarriage of justice,” Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said, adding Najib had “failed to cross the high threshold” of new evidence needed for a retrial.
Najib’s lawyer asked for the court to adjourn for three or four months before starting the hearing but the panel, after some deliberation, rejected that request.
“Justice cannot be unduly delayed. Justice delayed is also justice denied to others,” the chief justice said. The judges set six hearing dates for the appeal, running up to August 26.