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Yacht, Picasso painting and a DiCaprio movie: Why Malaysia sent ex-PM Najib Razak to jail

Mohammad Bilal
Mohammad BilalAug 24, 2022 | 18:24

Yacht, Picasso painting and a DiCaprio movie: Why Malaysia sent ex-PM Najib Razak to jail

Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak. Photo: Getty Images

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was sent to jail on Tuesday (August 23) to serve a sentence of 12 years. His final appeal was rejected by a five-judge bench of Malaysian top court. He was accused of misusing public fund worth Rs $ 4.5 billion for his personal uses like purchasing a yacht, a Picasso painting, jewelleries and production of a Hollywood movie. 

He is the son of former Malaysian PM Abdul Razak Hussein and also the first ex-PM in the world who will serve a jail sentence. He is the President of his political party, United Malaysia National Oganization (UMNO) and served as the PM of Malaysia from 2009 to 2018.

What was the corruption case? Popularly known as largest kleptocracy case in the world, Razak's corruption scandal is a story of Hollywood celebrities, Malaysian politicians, luxury yachts, Picasso paintings power and large amount of stolen money.

In 2020, he was convicted of using public funds valued at nearly $4.5 billion from state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad  (1MDB) fund. The 1MDB fund was started to help the country bring foreign investment. Instead, the money was used by his family for the next five years.

Najib Razak's Superyacht. Photo: AFP

The scandal started in 2009 when Razak became the PM of Malaysia. Billions of dollars were either pulled or laundered through subsidiary companies by those who ran it.

It is alleged that almost a quarter of stolen money was deposited in the personal bank account of Razak. His wife, Rosmah Mansour, also lavishly spent this money. His financial adviser Jho Low, friend of Najib's stepson, Riza Aziz, also spent a lot of this money for his personal use.

He allegedly siphoned off funds, used it to purchase land assets in prime Manhattan real estate, a superyacht, jewellery worth $8.1m, a glass piano for the Australian model Miranda Kerr, a Picasso painting and Oscar statuette for Leonardo DiCaprio. He also invested in the Hollywood Movie "The Wolf of Wall Street" and threw lavish parties which were attended by Hollywood stars like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Foxx.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch in 2016 had said that "A number of corrupt 1MDB officials treated this trust as a personal bank account".

Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak. Photo: Reuters

Where is Jho Low? Though Razak is convicted and jailed, his financial adviser Jho Low remains absconding. Low went into hiding in 2018 after Razak lost the election. Many believe that he is in China but he is yet to be traced by the Malaysian authorities. 

Najib exposed and raided: The scandal was exposed in 2015 by a British journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown. She wrote about it on her website titled "The Sarawak Report". Najib got an arrest warrant issued for Rewcastle Brown, fired the Attorney General who was investigating 1MDB, removed all the anti-corruption officers in this case and placed the report under the Official Secrets Act.

A subsequent probe which was considered to be deliberate attempt to whitewash his image was ordered by Razak. The investigation cleared him of all the charges.

When his properties were raided in 2018, the police seized from him:

  • Luxury goods worth Rs $273m
  • 1400 necklases
  • 567 designer buildings
  • 423 watches
  • 2,200 rings
  • 1600 brooches
  • 14 tiaras

It was the biggest seizure by police in Malaysian history. 

Najib Razak calls it political conspiracy: All throughout his trial from 2018 until his conviction in 2020, Razak has called himself innocent. He called his incarceration a political conspiracy on all counts.

Last updated: August 24, 2022 | 18:51
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