Malaysia's former prime minister is appealing his conviction for his involvement in the 1MDB financial scandal

  • Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak appealed his 2020 conviction on charges related to the 1MDB scandal. 
  • Razak was convicted on money laundering and breach of trust charges and faces 12 years in prison.
  • Lawyers for Razak claim he was “misled” by business partner Jho Low. 
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is attempting to overturn his conviction on seven counts of criminal breach of trust, money laundering, and abuse of power in one of the biggest financial crimes in history — the 1MDB financial scandal. 

1MDB, short for 1Malaysia Development Berhad, was a sovereign wealth fund founded by Razak and his business partner Jho Low in 2009. Over the course of six years, 1MDB raised billions, ostensibly meant to fund development projects in Malaysia. But authorities say that instead of funding infrastructure projects, the bulk of the money — around $4.5 billion — actually ended up in offshore bank accounts and shell companies run by the pair. 

Low famously used the money to fund his lavish jet-setting lifestyle, which involved luxury yachts, high-priced art, and parties with American celebrities and models including Miranda Kerr. Low also used some of the embezzled funds to finance the 2013 Martin Scorsese film “Wolf of Wall Street,” which is, ironically, the true-life tale of a noted financial criminal.

Razak, on the other hand, spent at least part of the funds on supporting his wife Rosmah Mansor’s luxury shopping sprees. When police raided the family’s home in 2018 after Razak lost the 2018 election, they found millions in jewelry and handbags, according to CNN. Prosecutors say Razak spent $27 million on a single pink diamond necklace for Mansor.

Since the scandal’s implosion in 2015, Low has been on the run, a fugitive believed to be living in either Cyprus (where Low obtained a “golden passport”) or Macao. In 2020, Al Jazeera reported Low attempted to strike a deal with the Malaysian government to avoid jail time, a premise that FBI agents working on the case called “laughable.”

Razak, who served as Malaysia’s prime minister from 2009 to 2018, has not been able to escape his fate. In 2020, he was found guilty of breach of trust, abuse of power, and money laundering and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He was also hit with a $50 million fine.

The conviction was considered a historic victory against corruption in the country. 

But lawyers for Razak are now arguing that he’s innocent and was unaware of the outsized graft and “misled” by Low. According to Nikkei Asia, Razak has amassed a list of more than 300 grounds upon which his conviction should be vacated. 

Razak’s appellate trial will begin on Monday and run until April 22. 

Even if Razak successfully appeals and overturns this conviction, he still faces dozens of additional charges in connection with $681 million that was found in his personal bank accounts. He’s been charged with nine counts of receiving bribes, seven counts of transferring money to his political party and various companies, and five counts of using illegal proceeds.  

He has repeatedly claimed the money was a gift from a Saudi prince. 

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