1MDB scandal

Malaysia pardons board halves sentence of jailed ex-PM Najib, convicted in 1MDB scandal


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Malaysia pardons board halves sentence of jailed ex-PM Najib, convicted in 1MDB scandal

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during a news conference at the Federal Court in Putrajaya, Malaysia August 18, 2022.

Hasnoor Hussain/Reuters

The pardons board, chaired by Malaysia's king, says it made the decision after reviewing an application for a royal pardon by former prime minister Najib Razak, who began serving a 12-year jail term in August 2022

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Former Malaysian premier Najib Razak, who was convicted of graft over the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal, could be released by 2028 after his jail sentence was halved by a pardons board on Friday, February 2, prompting an uproar from critics who called on the government to explain its decision.

The pardons board, chaired by Malaysia’s king, said it made the decision this week after reviewing an application for a royal pardon by Najib, who began serving a 12-year jail term in August 2022. It did not give a reason for the decision.

The reduction in Najib’s sentence comes amid accusations that current Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is backsliding on promised reforms, after a string of corruption cases linked to Najib and leaders with ties to his party were dropped last year.

Anwar has long campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, but joined hands with Najib’s graft-tainted party, the United National Malays Organisation (UMNO), to form a government in November 2022, after an election that ended in a hung parliament.

The prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Najib’s daughter Nooryana Najwa Najib said his family appreciated the reduced sentence but were disappointed he was not granted a full pardon and released immediately.

“Najib Razak and his family remain steadfast in our position and confidence that he is innocent,” she said in an Instagram post.

Youth party MUDA, which withdrew its support for Anwar last year citing corruption concerns, called on the prime minister to explain the rationale for reducing Najib’s sentence and whether the government agreed with the decision.

“This will have a great impact on Malaysia’s image in the eyes of the world, including our reputation, in terms of the economy and the legal system,” it said.

In addition to commuting Najib’s sentence, the pardons board also reduced fines imposed on the ex-premier to 50 million ringgit ($10.59 million) from 210 million ringgit. An additional year would be imposed on his reduced jail term if he failed to pay the fine.

‘Royal clemency’

Malaysia’s king plays a ceremonial role and acts largely on the advice of the prime minister and cabinet. But the monarch can grant clemency to convicts under discretionary powers granted by the federal constitution, with advice from a pardons board.

The board’s decision on Monday was among the last acts of former king Al-Sultan Abdullah of Pahang, who ended his five-year reign under Malaysia’s rotating system of monarchy this week. He was succeeded on Wednesday by Sultan Ibrahim from Johor.

Najib was convicted for graft linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), from which US and Malaysian investigators estimate $4.5 billion was stolen and more than $1 billion channelled to accounts linked to the former premier.

Najib has consistently denied wrongdoing, saying he was misled by fugitive financier Jho Low and other 1MDB officials over the source of the funds and that he believed they were donations from the Saudi royal family.

Najib was voted out of power in 2018 amid public anger over 1MDB, ending the rule of UMNO, which had governed Malaysia for six decades since independence.

UMNO returned to power just two years later, amid political turmoil. It was voted out again in the 2022 election, but partnered with Anwar’s coalition to form a majority.

Najib remains on trial in several other corruption cases linked to 1MDB. – Rappler.com

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