Angry Malaysians slam Najib Razak’s 1MDB sentence reduction: ‘a travesty of justice’

After a week of rumours, the Pardons Board on Friday said Najib, 70, will be freed in August 2028 after his jail term was slashed, as one of the final acts in office of King Sultan Abdullah, who chaired the panel.

“It’s such a shock. I couldn’t believe it when I read the news,” Joan Chin, a 44-year-old insurance clerk in Kuala Lumpur, told This Week in Asia.

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“In an instant, public confidence [in the government] just went down the drain.”

The board also reduced his fine by 75 per cent to 50 million ringgit (US$10.6 million).

There are rumblings that Najib may be released even earlier, potentially qualifying for parole late next year or through another appeal to the new king Sultan Ibrahim, who ascended the throne on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Anwar acknowledged the ruling was divisive but urged Malaysians to “respect the decision of the then-king” and the “right of anyone convicted to appeal to the Pardons Board”.

To claim the premiership, Anwar allied with Umno, which dominated Malaysian politics for decades until 1MDB detonated its fortunes.

Anti-graft activists railed at the leniency shown towards Najib.

“A travesty of justice. Nothing less,” Cynthia Gabriel, founder of Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, said on X (formerly Twitter).

“Sentence commuted and fine reduced on what grounds? We are talking kleptocracy here. Please don’t take us for fools … is he returning the stolen loot?”


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The legacy of Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal on politics and corruption-fighting

Politicians joined the chorus of appeals for the board to reveal the reason for the decision.

“So long as you have rank, renown, and assets and you support [Anwar] anything goes. The rest are not important,” Rafique Rashid, Pejuang party’s information chief, said in a Facebook post late Friday.

“The common man is not important. The people are left to take care of themselves.”

His party was founded by Mahathir Mohamad, the 98-year-old former premier, who is facing a widening graft probe that analysts say is driven by his nemesis Anwar.

Others listed long jail offences for relatively minor crimes or acts of theft, while Najib’s role in a scandal which drained government coffers of billions of dollars has received a relatively light term of six years.

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Najib’s family immediately called for a full pardon for the one-time political star whose fall from grace followed global interest in the scandal at the state fund, which bilked billions of dollars to fund the luxury lifestyles of its key players including Malaysian businessman Jho Low, who remains on the run.

To his supporters, many among the Malay-Muslim base who say he uplifted the lot of the pious, rural poor, Najib’s term reduction was a cause for celebration.

Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God) … 5 more years we will continue to wait for the return of Najib Razak to the people,” said Tok Hisyam in a comment posted on the politician’s Facebook page.

“Be patient and strong … may Allah ease your affairs and grant you good health.”

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