|Ex-Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak arrived at court Tuesday for a verdict in the first of several corruption trials linked to the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB state investment fund.
The outcome is widely seen as a test of the rule of law five months after a new government took power. Najib’s Malay party returned to office as a key player in the new ruling alliance, less than two years after its shocking ouster in 2018 elections driven by public anger over the 1MDB scandal.
Security was tight at the courthouse, with the public barred from entering and staff spraying hand sanitizer for media outside. A crowd of supporters was gathering as Najib, wearing a mask and beige suit, entered the building.
Najib, 67, said in a Facebook post late Monday that he was prepared to fight to the end. He said he would appeal if he was found guilty, and expects prosecutors to appeal if he was acquitted.
“From day one, I have said this is the chance for me to clear my name," he wrote. “Whatever the decision in the High Court tomorrow, it does not end here ... after this, we will go to the Court of Appeal. I am ready."
Najib faces a total of 42 charges in five separate graft trials linked to the 1MDB saga and may be sentenced to years in prison if convicted in the first trial alone.
Analysts said the ruling could affect Najib’s other trials and send a signal to the business community about the strength of Malaysia’s legal system in tackling international financial crime.
The verdict will also test current Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was fired as Najib’s deputy in 2016 for speaking out on the 1MDB scandal but now relies on Najib’s party for support. Najib’s party is the biggest bloc in the current Malay nationalist alliance, which was formed in March after a political coup by Muhyiddin’s party toppled the former reformist government.