Court to rule on ex-Malaysia PM’s appeal against 1MDB conviction

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Najib Razak claims that he did not know how the money got into his personal bank accounts.

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A Malaysian court is set to rule on Wednesday an appeal by former prime minister Najib Razak against his conviction for corruption in the first case related to the multi-billion dollar scam at state fund 1MDB.

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Najib, whose term as prime minister ended with a defeat in the 2018 elections, was found guilty in July last year of diverting an estimated 42 million ringgit ($9.88m) from SRC International, a division of 1MDB, into his personal bank accounts. Gaya, and was sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.

The 68-year-old was allowed to stay pending the appeal.

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The court’s decision comes as Najib attempts to return to a country that has been through three prime ministers since the 1MDB scandal, which toppled his government. He is popular within the ruling United Malaysian National Organization (UMNO), which has now returned to power after its defeat in 2018.

In recent days, Najeeb and his legal team have sought to present new evidence, and asked for Tuesday to be postponed because a member of the team tested positive for COVID-19. The judge denied the request, and rejected the application to admit the new evidence in an online hearing.

The seven charges in the case include abuse of power, multiple counts of money laundering and criminal breach of trust.

In arriving at his guilty verdict last year, Judge Mohamed Nazlan Ghazali said that Najib, who was both prime minister and finance minister at the time of the crimes, “acted outside the limits of permissible conduct” in approving the loans, which was later a Has been made. Source of funds transferred to his account.

He said that Najib “benefited” from the approval of the loans, and that the defense failed to properly suspect the offense of abuse of power.

During the appeal, the defense argued that Najeeb did not know whether the money was going to his accounts or that it had come from the SRC. They claimed that Najib was misled by Malaysian financier Zho Lo and other 1MDB officials into believing that the funds in his account were a donation from the Saudi royal family.

The media and some supporters gathered outside the court as they prepared to announce their decision on the appeal of Judge Najib Razak. Former Prime Minister will be introduced through video link [Kamles Kumar/Al Jazeera]

Lou, whose whereabouts are unknown, has denied wrongdoing.

The panel of three appeals court judges began sitting at 9 a.m. (01:00 GMT) in the administrative capital, Putrajaya. Around 50 supporters of the former prime minister gathered outside, some wearing T-shirts with the words ‘Bosku’ (My Boss).

Najeeb, his lead lawyer, Muhammad Shafi Abdullah and other members of the defense team are attending via video call from their homes due to the coronavirus. When Judge Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil began to read out the panel’s findings on the trial judge’s decision, the former prime minister in a dark suit showed little emotion.

“This is not something that can be said in the national interest, but a national embarrassment,” Justice Abdul Karim said.

The United States Department of Justice alleges that $4.5bn in government funding was withdrawn from 1MDB during Najib’s tenure.

According to prosecutors, the former prime minister received more than $1bn out of 1MDB funds, and faces a total of 42 criminal charges related to the scandal.

Najib is the first Malaysian leader to be found guilty of corruption.

He can still appeal Wednesday’s decision to the nation’s highest court, if the judges decide to uphold the initial ruling.

With reporting by Kamlesh Kumar and Ushar Daniels in Putrajaya.

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