Jail will be tough for ex-Malaysian PM Najib Razak: Anwar Ibrahim

Jail will be a stark contrast to the seven-star hotel lifestyle of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as Malaysia begins to find ‘closure’ to the scandal that has rocked the nation for years, the chief of Malaysian opposition Anwar Ibrahim.

Najib, who has been indicted for his role in embezzling billions of dollars from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, lost his appeal against his prison sentence on Monday..

Malaysia’s highest court on Tuesday upheld his 12-year prison sentence, which began at Kajang prison, south of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur.

“I think it’s a good start. And it reforms and matures Malaysia as a vibrant democracy with strong institutions,” Anwar told CNBC.Squawk Box Asia” tuesday.

“The political leaders, the political elites who continue to prowl without [sic] impunity, they believe themselves invincible and above the law, [but] now the message is very clear,” he said. “Credit should be given to the ‘rakyat’ [the people]who decided, and so we have to continue.”

A tort refers to a fraudulent or dishonest act or scheme.

Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at the Federal Court in Putrajaya on August 15, 2022. The country’s highest court on Tuesday upheld his 12-year prison sentence, which started at Kajang prison, south of the capital Malaysian Kuala Lumpur.

Mohd Rasfan | AFP | Getty Images

He urged Malaysians to vote for ‘incorruptible’ leaders the next time they go to the polls. Malaysia is due to call elections by September 2023.

Najib was at the center of the scandal – which has been dubbed the world’s biggest case of kleptocracy – alongside suspected fraud mastermind Malaysian businessman Jho Low and bankers at Goldman Sachs.

Some $700 million is said to have been transferred to Najib’s accounts, and 1MDB’s losses are said to exceed $4 billion. Najib continues to deny any wrongdoing.

Anwar himself was at the center of various political fights. He served as the country’s deputy prime minister in the 1990s and was controversially deposed by then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad before being jailed for sodomy and corruption.

His conviction was overturned and he was released in 2004. He was imprisoned again for sodomy in 2014 before being granted a royal pardon in 2018 and released.

Anwar said Najib would have better prison conditions than he did in the 1990s, when he was denied books or family visits, but jail would be tough for the former prime minister, the first of the country to be imprisoned.

“From what I understood from my former colleagues, the prison guards, he will receive a little better treatment, he will have certain facilities,” he told CNBC.

“But still, prison is not a bed of roses, it’s hard, especially compared to its current lifestyle of a seven-star hotel, you’ll have to experience something hard and tough.”

Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor have been accused of leading a lavish life at the expense of 1MDB. Court hearings revealed that they had spent thousands of dollars on expensive hotels and jewelry.

Any attempt by Najib to challenge his conviction with further examinations will be difficult, Anwar said, referring to his own failed attempts before.

Najib may also seek clemency from the King of Malaysia, but given the financial enormity of the 1MDB scandal, the road could be difficult, Anwar added.

It is important that Malaysian authorities continue to seek justice in this scandal, including recovering stolen funds from the treasury, Anwar said when asked if others involved in the case, such as the businessman Low and Najib’s wife, Rosmah, should also be brought to justice.

In 2018, Malaysian police raided Najib and Rosmah’s home as part of the 1MDB investigation and recovered 284 boxes containing luxury handbags and 72 bags filled with jewelry, cash, watches and other valuables.

Anwar also said it was unlikely Najib would be able to garner support or influence the outcome of the upcoming elections from behind bars.

So far, those who have supported him – as seen in court on Monday – when he appeared in court have mostly come from his own constituencies, Anwar said.

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