KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian former Prime Minister Najib Razak was acquitted Friday in the latest trial in response to the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad state fund.
Najib, who is serving a 12-year prison term after losing the final appeal in his first of several corruption trials linked to the 1MDB scandal, was found not guilty on the charge of tampering with an audit report to cover up wrongdoings.
Defense lawyer Mohamad Shafee Abdullah said the High Court ruled that prosecutors did not have sufficient evidence to prove Najib guilty of abusing his position as Prime Minister and Finance Minister to order amendments to the 1MDB audit report in 2016 before it was presented to Parliament.
“My client is very grateful to Allah for the decision today because it really uplifted his spirit and the desire to fight for his innocence,” Shafee said Friday at a news conference.
The 1MDB development fund was set up months after Najib became prime minister in 2009. Investigators allege more than $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib’s associates through layers of bank accounts in the United States and other countries to finance Hollywood films and extravagant purchases that included hotels, a luxury yacht, art and jewelry. More than $700 million landed in Najib’s bank accounts.
He and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, were hit with multiple graft charges after the saga led to his ruling coalition’s shocking defeat in 2018 general elections. Rosmah was sentenced in 2022 to 10 years in prison and a record fine of 970 million ringgit ($217 million) for corruption over a solar energy project and is out on bail pending an appeal.
Shafee said financer Low Taek Jho — believed to be the mastermind of the scandal — remained at large.
Former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy, who was jointly charged with abetting Najib and appeared as a prosecution witness during the trial, was also acquitted by the court Friday.
Shafee has maintained that charges against Najib were politically motivated. Najib is seeking a review of the top court’s decision in August to reject his final appeal and is hoping for a favorable outcome later this month, he added.