Malaysia’s top court has dismissed a bid by jailed former Prime Minister Najib Razak to review his corruption conviction over the multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB, ending Najib’s judicial efforts to challenge the guilty verdict.
Najib was jailed last year after Malaysia’s Federal Court upheld a guilty verdict and 12-year prison sentence handed down to him by a lower court.
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Najib, 69, claimed he had not received a fair hearing, alleging one judge had a conflict of interest and that his new legal team was not allowed enough time to study the case documents.
But the Federal Court on Friday dismissed the challenge.
“There has been no prejudice and no failure of justice,” Judge Vernon Ong said.
The former primer minister can no longer challenge the conviction in court but he has applied for a royal pardon which, if successful, could see him released without serving the full 12-year term.
Ong said that a five-member panel voted 4-1 to dismiss Najib’s application to review the conviction.
There was no miscarriage of justice in the top court’s decision last year, he said, adding that a review was granted only in “very limited and exceptional circumstances”.
“In the final analysis, and having regard to all circumstances, we are constrained to say that the applicant (Najib) was the author of his own misfortunes,” Ong said.
Investigators have said some $4.5bn was stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) – co-founded by Najib during his first year as prime minister in 2009 – and that more than $1bn went to accounts linked to Najib.
Najib was charged after he lost a general election in 2018. He was found guilty by a high court in 2020 of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering for illegally receiving about $10 million from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB. He lost all his appeals.
The former premier has consistently pleaded innocence.
Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi, reporting from Kuala Lumpur, said the scale of the IMDB corruption scandal “not only shocked the world but angered people in Malaysia so much that they voted for political change”.
“It wasn’t just the scale of the corruption, it was how attempts to have the corruption investigated were constantly shutdown by those in power at the time that really led to people in 2018 casting their vote for the opposition leading to a change in political power for the first time in Malaysia’s history since it gained independence from British colonial rule in 1957,” Looi said.
Najib, who has been in prison since August, appeared dejected as the decision was read out. Earlier, he had arrived in court escorted by prison guards and was greeted by dozens of supporters.
His wife Rosmah Mansor, who was also found guilty of corruption last year, attended the proceedings.
Najib faces three other trials related to graft at 1MDB and other government agencies.