Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has failed to raise reasonable doubt over an abuse of power charge, a high court judge said on Tuesday, in the first trial linked to multi-billion-dollar corruption allegations at state fund 1MDB.
The judge did not immediately hand down a formal verdict and was still reading out his opinion on six other charges.
Najib faces seven charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power for allegedly illegally receiving nearly $10 million from former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) unit SRC International. He has pleaded not guilty.
High Court Judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali said Najib’s lawyers had “not succeeded in rebutting the presumption on the balance of probabilities or raising reasonable doubt on the charge” of abuse of power.
The former prime minister, who was voted out in a historic 2018 election, faces dozens of criminal charges over allegations that $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB.
Prosecutors allege more than $1.0 billion of the funds made its way into his personal accounts.
The former premier arrived in court to shouts of “long live Najib” by hundreds of supporters who had gathered outside.
Wearing a mask and flanked by top leaders of his party, Najib offered prayers just outside the courtroom.
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.
Allegations of corruption over 1MDB have hung over Najib for more than five years. But the criminal charges came only after his defeat in the 2018 election when his successor Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations.
The closely-watched case is seen as a test of Malaysia’s efforts to root out corruption, after Najib’s party was returned to power in February as part of an alliance led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
The verdict could have far reaching political implications.
A guilty 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.
An acquittal could turn public sentiment against Muhyiddin, and encourage the opposition to challenge the ruling coalition’s two-seat majority in parliament.
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.