Malaysia’s former first lady Rosmah Mansor has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for seeking and receiving bribes during her husband Najib Razak’s corruption-tainted tenure.
The order came days after the former prime minister began a 12-year prison term in one of the five graft cases involving multibillion-dollar pilfering of 1Malaysia Development Berhad state fund.
The couple have been subjected to multiple corruption probes since Najib lost the election in 2018, ending his nine-year tenure.
Rosmah was convicted on charges of soliciting and receiving 6.5m ringgit (£1.2m) between 2016 and 2017 to help a company secure a 1.25 billion ringgit project to provide solar energy panels to schools on Borneo island.
The prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Rosmah corruptly solicited and received money as a reward for herself, said High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan.
Her defence was a “bare denial, devoid of credible evidence”, he said, while handing down the prison sentence.
The court has also fined her 970m ringgit (£187m), the largest ever in the country’s history. She will, however, be allowed to remain out on bail pending an appeal to the higher courts.
Rosmah, a flamboyant figure widely scorned for her extravagant lifestyle and penchant for Hermes Birkin bags, made an emotional plea from the dock, decrying injustice as she denied soliciting funds.
Calling it political persecution, she said: “I do not even know the cost of the project. So I am just telling the truth and nothing else but the truth.”
“Nobody saw me taking the money, nobody saw me counting the money.... but if that’s the conclusion, I leave it to God.”
Her lawyer Jagjit Singh told reporters that she was shocked and upset, and that they plan to appeal the verdict. “The fine imposed today is unprecedented...To say she is upset is putting it mildly,” he said.
Under Malaysian law, each charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of five times the bribes solicited and received.
In court, her lawyer asked for a day in prison while prosecutors sought a “maximum or near maximum” sentence for Rosmah.
Before the verdict, the judge also rejected Rosmah’s application seeking his disqualification after an alleged judgement pronouncing her guilty was leaked online last week.
Police had claimed the leaked document was work done within the court’s research unit and was not the judgement, but Rosmah’s defense claimed they lost confidence that the judge could be fair.
But the judge maintained that he didn’t request the research and those were not his grounds, adding that he did not read the documents and had done his own research.
Malaysia’s top court had earlier slammed the action of the website, run by a blogger based in England, as “a deliberate act” aimed at smearing the court’s reputation.
Last week, the same website had published a document claiming to be the Federal Court’s guilty verdict of her husband just before the judgement was pronounced in court. The court said the leaked documents were a working draft and filed a complaint over both the leaks.
Additional reporting from the wires