The judge said the sentence was “appropriate and proportionate” taking into account that Najib had committed the crime from a “position of trust” as prime minister, his final plea and the need to deter others from committing the same crime. Najib’s lawyers immediately sought a stay of execution of the sentence.
The landmark case has been widely seen as a test for the country’s efforts to stamp out corruption and could have big political implications for the south-east Asian nation.
“I find the accused guilty and convict the accused of all seven charges,” the judge said after spending two hours reading out his ruling.
“After considering all evidence in this trial, I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The case involved 42 million ringgit ($14 million) of funds deposited in Najib’s personal accounts from a former unit of 1MDB, SRC International. He said he was misled by rogue bankers and the case against him was political.
It is the first of several trials Najib faces over a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state sovereign fund he founded.
Najib, who was voted out in a historic 2018 election, faces 42 charges in five separate trials of over allegations that $US4.5 billion ($6.3 billion) was stolen from the fund.
Prosecutors alleged more than $US1 billion of the funds made its way into his personal accounts.
Najib’s lawyers say he was misled by Malaysian financier Jho Low and other 1MDB officials into believing that the funds banked into his accounts were donated by the Saudi royal family, rather than misappropriated from SRC as prosecutors have alleged. Low denies wrongdoing.
The judge said it was “far fetched” to believe Najib could have been misled by Low.
Dozens of Najib supporters, gathered outside the courthouse for hours, called for the former Najib to be freed and were seen offering prayers.
Since losing the 2018 election, Najib has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity after embarking on an extensive public makeover, adopting a more personable tone to replace his image as a wealthy elite.
The former leader arrived in court to shouts of “long live Najib” by hundreds of supporters who had gathered outside. Najib himself appeared calm, albeit stony-faced.
“This is my chance to clear my name,” Najib said earlier in a Facebook post on Monday night.
Allegations of corruption over 1MDB have hung over Najib for more than five years. But the criminal charges came only after his election defeat when his successor Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations.
Najib’s party was returned to power in February as part of an alliance led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. The closely-watched 1MDB case is seen as a test of the country’s efforts to root out corruption.
The verdict could boost Muhyiddin’s credibility with the public, but weaken his coalition, which counts Najib’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) as its biggest component – and potentially trigger snap polls.
The court’s decision comes just days after Malaysia reached a $3.9 billion deal with Goldman Sachs over its role in helping 1MDB raise money.
Bloomberg, Reuters, AP