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Malaysian ex-PM's jail term halved to six years

Najib Razak was sentenced in 2022 for offenses linked to misuse of public money in multi-billion-dollar 1MDB financial scandal
Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak (center) greets supporters as he walks out during a break in trial at the federal court in Putrajaya, on Aug. 23, 2022

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak (center) greets supporters as he walks out during a break in trial at the federal court in Putrajaya, on Aug. 23, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

Published: February 03, 2024 04:46 AM GMT
Updated: February 03, 2024 04:50 AM GMT

Malaysia's pardons board said on Friday it had halved the jail term for former prime minister Najib Razak, currently in prison for corruption, to six years.

Najib was sentenced in 2022 to 12 years in jail for offenses linked to the misuse of public money in the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB financial scandal.

"After considering opinions and advice... the pardon board has decided to grant a 50 percent reduction for the sentence and fine imposed on Najib Razak," it said in a statement.

The board, which was chaired by Malaysia's former king Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and also included the attorney general, met on Monday - two days before the king handed the rotational throne to a successor.

The board did not give any other reasons for its decision.

It also said Najib would be released in 2028 and his fine reduced to 50 million ringgit ($10.6 million).

An additional year would be added to his jail term if he failed to pay the fine, the board said.

Najib's lawyers and government officials could not be reached for comment.

Damage reform credentials

James Chin, professor of Asian Studies at the University of Tasmania in Australia, said the sentence reduction could damage Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's reform credentials after he campaigned on eradicating corruption during the 2022 election.

"The cut in Najib's jail sentence reminds us that there are two rules in Malaysia -- one for the powerful elite and one for the normal people," Chin told AFP.

Najib was found guilty in 2020 of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust over the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($8.9 million) from former 1MDB unit SRC International to his personal bank account.

His bid to overturn the prison sentence was rejected by Malaysia's top court.

The 70-year-old, who was prime minister from 2009 to 2018, claimed he did not receive a fair hearing, alleging that a judge had a conflict of interest and that his new legal team was not allowed enough time to study the case documents.

He was ousted in 2018 polls by an opposition alliance of Malaysia's political patriarch Mahathir Mohamad amid anger over the scandal.

The king wields the power to pardon convicted figures in Malaysia and his role is accorded considerable prestige, particularly among the country's Malay Muslim majority.

In 2018, Sultan Muhammad V pardoned then-opposition leader Anwar, who had served a jail sentence for sodomy.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, with the throne changing hands every five years between rulers of the nine Malaysian states headed by centuries-old Islamic royalty.

Najib, whose wife Rosmah Mansor was found guilty of graft in 2022, possibly faces dozens more charges.

Most are related to his alleged role in the 1MDB scandal, which led to money-laundering investigations around the world, including in the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

It is alleged that billions of dollars were pilfered from 1MDB by a number of players and used to buy everything from a superyacht to artwork.

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