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“I find the accused guilty and convict the accused of all seven charges,” Judge Mohamad Nazlan Ghazali said after spending two hours to read out his ruling.

A Malaysian court pronounced former Prime Minister Najib Razak guilty in his first corruption trial over the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB investment fund.

The outcome is widely seen as a test of the rule of law five months after a new government took power. Razak’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.

“I find the accused guilty and convict the accused of all seven charges,” Judge Mohamad Nazlan Ghazali said after spending two hours to read out his ruling.

The judge said Razak had failed to raise reasonable doubt and that prosecutors had established beyond reasonable doubt that Razak misappropriated the money for his own use.

The current trial involved a charge of abuse of power, three charges of criminal breach of trust and three money laundering charges.

‘Misled by rogue bankers’

Razak has promised to appeal. He said he was misled by rogue bankers and the case against him is political. “From day one, I have said this is the chance for me to clear my name,” he wrote on Facebook late on July 27. “After this, we will go to the Court of Appeal. I am ready.”

Analysts said the ruling would bolster the prosecution’s case in Razak’s other trials. He faces 42 charges in five separate trials and could face years in prison.

The conviction would serve as a solid foundation for the prosecution in ensuing IMDB-related trials, said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with Singapore’s Institute of International Affairs.

He said the ruling also would strengthen the credibility of current Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was fired as Razak’s deputy in 2016 for speaking out on the 1MDB scandal although he now relies on Razak’s party for support.

Razak’s party is the biggest bloc in the current Malay nationalist alliance, which was formed in March after a political coup by Mr. Muhyiddin’s party toppled the former reformist government.

1MDB set up for Malaysia’s economic development

Razak, shortly after taking office in 2009, set up 1MDB to ostensibly accelerate Malaysia’s economic development.

But the fund accumulated billions in debt, and U.S. investigators allege that at least $4.5 billion was stolen from it and laundered by Razak’s associates to finance Hollywood films and buy hotels, a luxury yacht, artwork, jewelry and other extravagances. More than $700 million from the fund allegedly landed in Razak’s bank accounts.

Razak’s wife and several officials from his party and previous government have also been charged with graft. Razak, whose father and uncles were Malaysia’s second and third Prime Ministers, denies any wrongdoing. He calls the prosecutions a political attack on him.

Razak’s first trial began in April 2019 over seven charges related to the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($9.8 million) from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit, into his bank accounts through intermediary companies.

Razak was accused of using his position to receive a bribe for approving a government guarantee for billions in loans to SRC, committing criminal breach of trust and accepting proceeds from unlawful activities.

Complex trail of money

Evidence showed a complex trail of money through the accounts that paid for renovating Razak’s home, credit card purchases including a Chanel watch bought in Hawaii as a birthday gift for his wife and disbursements to political parties.

In defence, Razak has said he was misled by rogue bankers led by Malaysian fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, identified by investigators as a mastermind in the 1MDB saga.

Razak testified he assumed the money was part of an Arab donation arranged by Low. The judge debunked that argument in the guilty verdict, finding it an elaborate but weak fabrication. Razak’s lawyers said Low had used the donation as a guise to keep Razak from being suspicious of his plundering of the 1MDB fund. Prosecutors argued that Razak was the real power behind 1MDB and SRC, and called the Arab donation manufactured evidence to cover up his tracks.

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