THE Court of Appeal began hearing a bid by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to set aside his conviction on corruption charges in a case linked to a multibillion-dollar 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal.
Najib faces several trials over allegations that US$4.5 bil (RM18.6 bil) was stolen from 1MDB, a state fund that he co-founded in 2009. He has plead not guilty to all charges.
Last year, the 67-year-old was sentenced to 12 years in jail and a US$50 mil (RM210 mil) fine after being found guilty of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering for illegally pocketing about US$10 mil from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit.
With his sentence stayed pending the appeal, Najib remained free on bail and retained his position as a Member of Parliament, thus continuing to be a major political player in the country.
Amid the dramatic start to Najib’s appeal hearing on Monday, one cannot help but ask: what would this achieve, except to put the country through yet another bitter reminder that corruption and betrayal can happen even in the highest places of the government?
The case was historic for the simple reason that this was the first time an ex-prime minister of Malaysia has been charged in court with corruption and abuse of power.
To many Malaysians, his guilty verdict had meant that another chapter in the 1MBD scandal was closed, but with the appeal process, the ‘trauma’ was revisited once more. Suffice to say, Malaysia is still some way from closing the book on Najib’s involvement in the scandal.
This is because despite the damning evidence and guilty verdict, Najib has been nothing but steadfast in maintaining his innocence and had even vowed to carry on the fight to clear his name.
Even if the Court of Appeal upholds the guilty verdict, there is the possibility of referring the case to the Federal Court, Malaysia’s supreme court. The process could take years, probably way beyond the next general election.
For now, the appeal process is still in its early days and it is simply too early to say for sure if Najib will succeed in his appeal. – April 7, 2021