Najib’s accusers say they are vindicated after his guilty verdict

This article is more than 12 months old

They hail Tuesday's guilty verdict after years of living in fear for revealing details of the 1MDB scandal

KUALA LUMPUR: Mr Fahmi Reza was once sentenced to jail in Malaysia for portraying former prime minister Najib Razak as a clown. That image has now been updated and reposted with "guilty" written across Najib's eyes in red.

When Najib was sentenced to 12 years in jail on Tuesday in the first verdict against him related to the multi-billion-dollar scandal over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund, Mr Fahmi was among the critics, investigators and journalists who welcomed it with relief.

"When he was still prime minister, so many activists were unjustly arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced to jail for speaking out against his corruption and abuse of power," Mr Fahmi, a graphic designer and activist, told Reuters.

"We finally feel vindicated," said Mr Fahmi, whose one-month jail sentence was commuted.

Najib was on Tuesday found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million (S$68 million) by the High Court, in the first of five trials he faces relating to 1MDB.

His punishment was delayed pending appeal, but the verdict was welcomed by those who once tried to investigate him.

Top officials at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had complained that their investigations into 1MDB had been blocked, with witnesses disappearing and even death threats against them.

"It is the biggest gift for me at the end of my 37 years of service in the MACC," said now retired investigator Bahri Mohamad Zin. "At the time, I really felt alone. Our lawyer was arrested at 1am, my lead investigator was detained, our offices and homes were raided.

"This was what we had to go through just to do our job," revealed the former director of special operations at the commission, who left his job in 2016 after a decision not to bring charges over 1MDB.

Mr Bahri returned to the commission in 2018 after Najib's surprise election loss brought in a government that revived the charges. The fall of that government five months ago for a coalition that includes Najib's party raised concerns among his critics that the courts could be lenient - fears assuaged by Tuesday's verdict.

Among those who had investigated Najib, and was called a liar and barred from Malaysia for her articles, was British journalist Clare Rewcastle-Brown, who published reports on the 1MDB scandal on her Sarawak Report website.

"Ultimately the facts were very clear," she said.

"It is a good opportunity for Malaysia to put in place changes that will protect the media and ensure the public has access to free media that can shine the truth on corruption."

Meanwhile, Malaysian police said Low Taek Jho, who is accused of being the mastermind behind the scandal, is hiding in the Chinese territory of Macau.

Asked why he was revealing Low's location, police chief Ab-dul Hamid said allegations had been made that officers were "purposely slowing down on the effort to bring him to justice".

China yesterday denied protecting the fugitive financier. - REUTERS, AFP