PUTRAJAYA, KOMPAS.com – Malaysia’s top court on Thursday, Aug. 18, began hearing ex-leader Najib Razak’s appeal to overturn his jail sentence for corruption in a high-stakes legal gambit that could see him locked up or potentially launching a political comeback.
Following a brief drama at the Federal Court seen as an attempt by defense lawyers to delay proceedings, government prosecutors started outlining why the former prime minister’s 12-year jail sentence over a financial scandal at state fund 1MDB should stay.
The court dismissed Najib’s plea for a retrial two days earlier, clearing the way for the hearings, which will be held until August 26.
Lead defense lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik surprised the court Thursday by telling the panel of five judges that he wanted to be discharged from the case, citing inadequate time to prepare as he had been recently appointed.
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The court, however, refused to discharge him and Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat ordered the prosecution to present its case.
Najib, 69, and his ruling party were roundly defeated in the 2018 elections following allegations of their involvement in the multibillion-dollar scandal.
He and his associates were accused of stealing billions of dollars from the country’s investment vehicle and spending it on everything from high-end real estate to pricey art.
Following a lengthy High Court trial, Najib was found guilty of abuse of power, money laundering, and criminal breach of trust over the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($10.1 million) from former 1MDB unit SRC International to his personal bank account.
He was sentenced to 12 years in jail in July 2020, though he has not been sent to prison while the appeals process plays out.