Malaysia’s pardons board has announced that it has reduced the jail sentence of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was convicted of corruption in the 1MDB scandal, from 12 years to six years. The board, which is headed by the king, also reduced the fines imposed on Najib from 210 million ringgit ($44.4 million) to 50 million ringgit ($10.6 million).
Najib, who was sentenced in 2020 and began serving his prison term in August 2022, will be eligible for release on parole in August 2026, after serving two-thirds of his new jail term. He was found guilty of abuse of power, breach of trust and money laundering for illegally receiving 42 million ringgit ($8.9 million) from SRC International, a former unit of the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The 1MDB scandal, which involved the theft of billions of dollars from the fund and the funneling of money to Najib’s accounts and associates, rocked Malaysia’s political and financial landscape and triggered investigations in several countries. Najib has denied any wrongdoing and has appealed against his conviction and sentence.
The decision by the pardons board comes as one of the last official tasks of Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin, who stepped down as Malaysia’s king on Jan 31 and handed the role to Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar under the country’s unique rotation system for its nine royal state households.
The partial royal pardon for Najib has sparked mixed reactions from the public and the political parties. Some have welcomed the move as a gesture of compassion and mercy, while others have criticized it as a betrayal of justice and a sign of political interference.
Najib, who is the former leader of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), is still believed to wield significant influence in the party, which is part of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government. Analysts have speculated that the pardon could be part of a deal to secure UMNO’s support for Anwar, who faces a looming confidence vote in parliament.