After Malaysia’s political turmoil last week and the change of leadership of the country, a question has been raised about the charges pending against the former Prime Minister Najib Razak, the Sixth Prime Minister who ruled from 2009 to 2018.
Najib is now facing several trials related to the charges including the mishandling of the state’s financial resources and corruption over the multi-billion 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund scandal. On Sunday, a new government under the leadership of the PM, Muhyiddin Yassin was formed with majority support from Najib’s political party, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).
Malaysia’s New Government
In his first message after taking charge in the office of the Prime Minister, Yassin announced that fighting against corruption would be his government’s first priority of governance. The question arose about whether the existing trials on the former PM, Najib would be pursued since the new government is backed in parliament by Najib’s political party. Many analysts suggested that Najib’s position in his party would influence the policy of the new government.
The veteran political leader, Mahathir Mohamad, who was expelled as prime minister in last week’s realignments, had accused Najib and his party for inducing the political crisis that happened in the last week to help to avoid a trial against him. The 94-year-old told a meeting with his party’s youth members on Sunday, “If Najib can be part of the government now, and he can do all sorts of things to free himself.”
The Director of the Kuala Lumpur-based anti-corruption watchdog C4 Center, Cynthia Gabriel said referring to the uncertainty over Najib’s trials, “The worst-case scenario is that these grand corruption trials will be dropped through judicial interference and more.” Earlier, Najib has consistently denied the charges and claimed to continue fighting in the court.
Najib’s 1MDB Fund Scandal
Najib was ousted in 2018 since public anger were surfaced to remove his government as he was charged for involving in several misappropriations of state funds including the 1MDB scandal that has widespread connected from Malaysia to the Middle East to Hollywood. Rosmah Mansor, Najib’s wife, who was the UMNO’s leader and others were simultaneously charged for corruption.
According to the US Department of Justice, the misappropriation of funds from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign fund between 2009 and 2014 would be estimated at around $4.5 billion during Najib’s rule in the country. Subsequently, after the investigation, the US and Malaysian authorities claimed that over $1 billion was diverted from 1MDB into Najib’s personal banks’ accounts.
Najib’s case has also led the then Malaysia government accusing Goldman Sachs of misleading investors over bond sales totaling $6.5 billion and three banks, which helped to raise the 1MDB fund, were investigated but the banks have pleaded not guilty.
Currently, Najib is facing five trials, which involved seven other charges linked to $10 million misappropriated from a 1MDB unit, and it was set to reach a verdict within months. Najib, denying the charges, has been blaming Malaysian financier Jho Low and other 1MDB officials for alleged misguidance.
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