Kuala Lumpur — Najib Razak’s High Court conviction for corruption was unanimously upheld by Malaysia’s appeals court on Wednesday (Dec 8), but the former Prime Minister, who was allowed bail, is likely to stay out of jail for another six to nine months pending a Federal Court appeal.

In July 2020, Mr Najib, 68, was convicted by the High Court of seven counts of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust, thus becoming the first Prime Minister of Malaysia to be convicted of corruption. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million (S$68.05 million), which he appealed.

However, the Court of Appeal said on Wednesday that it agreed with the verdict of the High Court.

“We dismiss the motion and affirm the conviction on all sentences,” said Judge Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil.

Justice Abdul Karim flatly refuted a claim from the defence that Mr Najib had acted with the national interest at heart, pointing to the stream of money that had flowed into the former Prime Minister’s personal bank accounts.

“This is not something that can be said to have been done in the national interest. There is no national interest here. Just national embarrassment,” he said.

The Federal Court is the highest in Malaysia, and if Mr Najib loses his last appeal, it will thwart his attempt to make a political comeback.

A resounding loss in the General Election in May 2018 seemed to put an end to Mr Najib’s political career. However, after his party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), saw a big win in Malacca’s state elections last month, speculation spread that like another former Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who succeeded Mr Najib as for a second, though short-lived stint to lead the country in 2018, Mr Najib would mount a bid to become Prime Minister once more. 

Mr Najib seemed to rise from the ashes, driven, in part, by longing and nostalgia for pre-Covid days, according to a recent report in the South China Morning Post. 

The report quoted Mr Najib as telling writer Sophie Lemière, “[Malacca] was a game-changer. [We are] still a good brand.”

His confidence may well be buoyed by calls over social media for him to be restored as Prime Minister after the Malacca victory.

Mr Najib held a press conference after the appellate court upheld his guilty verdict, where he said he was disappointed over the judge calling his case a national embarrassment.

“During my tenure, the total assets of the country grew from RM800 million to RM2 trillion. Therefore, I created a lot of wealth,” he told members of the media. /TISG

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