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Malaysia’s ex-PM starts 12-year jail term as final appeal fails

Malaysia former Prime Minister Najib Razak has been sent to jail to begin serving a 12-year sentence, after the top court rejected his appeal.

The 69-year-old’s charges relate to a corruption scandal involving state-owned wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

He was convicted in July 2020, but had been out on bail during the appeal.

The court also denied Najib’s request to delay his sentence. He has continued to deny any wrongdoing.

In 2020, a court had found him guilty on seven counts – centred on a total of 42m ringgit ($9.4m; £8m) which was transferred from SRC International – a former unit of 1MDB – into his private accounts.

He was sentenced to 12 years’ jail and a fine of 210m ringgit ($46.8m; £39.7m).

The defence team had argued Najib was led to believe the funds in his accounts were donated by the Saudi royal family rather than misappropriated from the state fund.

They also claimed he was misled by financial advisers, particularly fugitive financier Jho Low – who has been charged in both the US and Malaysia but also maintains his innocence.

In his final push for freedom on Tuesday, Najib’s lawyer requested the removal of Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat from the panel presiding over the case – in what was seen as a bid to forestall a final verdict.

They claimed she could be biased as her husband had made a Facebook post in 2018 which was critical of Najib.

However, the chief justice declined the request as she said the post was before the charges were brought against Najib.

In her verdict, the chief justice said the five-judge panel unanimously found that the conviction of Najib on all seven counts was safe and the appeal “devoid of any merits”.

“The defence is so inherently inconsistent and incredible that it has not raised reasonable doubt on the case,” she said.

The charges addressed on Tuesday make up only the the first of five trials relating to 1MDB.

Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, faces separate money-laundering and tax evasion charges related to a solar hybrid project – to which she has pleaded not guilty. The High Court is scheduled to deliver her verdict on 1 September. (BBC)

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