The ex-leader of Malaysia, Najib Razak, was given a 6-year jail sentence for being corrupt instead of his original 12-year sentence by the country’s pardons board.
Najib was put in prison in 2022 for stealing money from Malaysia’s government fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The board lowered the fine for him to 50 million ringgit (8. 3 million pounds; 10. 5 million dollars) from the original 210 million ringgit.
Najib has to pay all of it to be let go in August 2028.
If he doesn’t pay, he will have to stay in prison for another year until 2029.
He was found guilty in 2020 after trying for two years to prove he was not guilty in court.
The arrest of a very important leader in Asian politics at that time caused big problems in South East Asia. It was seen as a rare case of being responsible in a place where those in charge often don’t have to explain their actions.
But on Tuesday, it was reported that Malaysia’s pardons board had met on the last day of the King’s time in office to discuss Najib’s request to be released. Malaysia has a monarchy where the king changes every now and then. King Abdullah Ahmad Shah gave his role to Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar on Wednesday.
James Chin, a professor at the University of Tasmania, said that the shorter sentence shows that leaders in South East Asia do whatever they want without punishment.
“If you become successful in your career, nothing bad can happen to you,” Prof Chin told the BBC.
He said that the information about the pardons board’s decision seems like they wanted to control how the public might feel about it.
Najib’s political party, UMNO, used to be in charge of Malaysia. Now they are trying to get a pardon from the king after trying other ways to appeal their case.
Two weeks ago, Najib was taken from prison by guards to go to a court in Kuala Lumpur to hear his new legal challenge. He and his wife Rosmah Mansor still have a lot of other charges against them.
Even though Najib’s reputation was hurt a lot by the 1MDB scandal and his involvement in it, he is still liked by regular UMNO supporters. This is because he gave a lot of help to ethnic Malay communities while he was in charge. He built more support for himself with a clever advertising campaign, even after he was accused, using the slogan Bossku (Your Boss).
No UMNO leaders who took over for him are as well-liked, so they had to make it look like they were trying to remove him. Najib’s party is not as strong as it used to be, but it is still one of the biggest parties in Malaysia. It is also part of the government group led by his old enemy Anwar Ibrahim. It’s not surprising to see its wishes being met.
The 1MDB scheme is a big scam that involved stealing money from public projects in Malaysia and putting it into private pockets, including Najib’s.
Jho Low, a runaway money man, is thought to have planned the scam and is wanted by Malaysian officials. Last year, the country’s anti-corruption organization said they think he is in Macau.
The case is about a fund called 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) that was started in 2009 while Najib was the prime minister.
Sovereign wealth funds are like piggy banks that belong to the government and are used to help the country grow economically. Constructed using money earned by the state, such as profits from selling oil and other products, they have a lot of cash to invest and a lot of power in other countries.
In 2015, people were worried about what 1MBD was doing when it didn’t pay the money it owed to banks and people who had bought its bonds.
Malaysian and US governments say that $4. 5 billion was taken from the fund unfairly and put into people’s own pockets.
The stolen money was used to buy fancy houses, a private airplane, paintings by Van Gogh and Monet, and even to fund a big movie called The Wolf of Wall Street. Leonardo DiCaprio starred in the movie.
Last week, the US bank Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $3. 9 billion to the Malaysian government for its involvement in a large corruption scheme.
The agreement settles accusations in Malaysia that the bank deceived investors while assisting in raising $6. 5 billion for 1MDB.