Source: No special treatment for Najib, Malaysia’s VIP prisoner

Nisha David
2022.09.08
Kuala Lumpur
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Source: No special treatment for Najib, Malaysia’s VIP prisoner Former Prime Minister Najib Razak prays at the Kampung Baru Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Aug. 21, 2022.
[S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

Incarcerated former Prime Minister Najib Razak is being kept in an isolation cell inside a wing for high-security inmates at the Kajang prison, but otherwise is getting no special treatment, a highly placed source told BenarNews on Thursday.

The ex-PM, who used to dine at the finest restaurants around the world, now eats the same prison food as other inmates, but as a concession to his asthma does so under the whir of a ceiling fan, the source said.

“Even though Najib has VIP status, he does not get special treatment. He is treated like any other prisoner,” the source, who was not authorized to speak to reporters, told BenarNews.

Najib, 69, was whisked away to the lockup outside Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 23 to serve a 12-year sentence, when he lost his final appeal over his 2020 conviction in a corruption case linked to the 1MDB financial scandal.

Najib, who is said to own an apartment at Kuala Lumpur’s luxury Pavilion Residences condominium, now takes cold showers like other inmates, the source said, adding that the former PM’s cell doesn’t have a phone charger or an en suite toilet.

“The isolation cell is equipped with the same facilities as the special cells holding other prisoners who also require high-security care,” the source said.

Additionally, Malaysia’s former PM no longer has access to the spiffy suits he was seen sporting during his trial for allegations that he illegally received U.S. $9.67 million from a subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a state investment fund.

“[He wears a] White shirt, white pants like other prisoners,” the source said.

However, security around the prison has been tightened because of Najib’s VIP status, the source said.

Najib was prime minister of Malaysia from 2009 until 2018.

“As a former prominent leader of the country, security measures will definitely be tightened to ensure he remains safe while in the custody of the Prisons Department” the source said.

Earlier this week, Kejang prison issued a statement refuting rumors that the former PM was living in a house meant for senior corrections officials on the prison grounds.

“The information is wrong. Stop spreading it,” the department said on Facebook.

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The main gate to Kajang Prison is seen, May 3, 2019. [Mohd Rasfan/AFP]

Despite filing a petition for a royal pardon as well as an application for a review of the Federal Court’s decision upholding his conviction, Najib will have to remain in prison while these pleas are being considered, the laws dictate.

In July 2020, the Kuala Lumpur High Court had convicted Najib for abuse of power, criminal breach of trust, and money-laundering over allegations that he illegally received 42 million ringgit from SRC International, a subsidiary of sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

But Najib evaded prison for two years by lodging appeals against the July 2020 verdict by the Kuala Lumpur High Court, first in the Court of Appeal and then at the highest Federal Court, and was out on 2 million ringgit (U.S. $448,500) bail.

‘Review in very rare cases’

Less than two weeks after being sent to jail, Najib petitioned the king for a pardon. While that petition, too, did not get him out of prison, it did ensure that Najib remains a member of parliament until the king rules on his pardon plea, Parliament Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun said in a statement on Monday.

The former leader, however, cannot contest general elections unless he is pardoned.

Then late Tuesday, Najib asked Malaysia’s top court to review its decision upholding his corruption conviction, claiming a miscarriage of justice.

“The Federal Court will only allow a review in very rare cases,” lawyer Akberdin Abdul Kader told BenarNews, adding that a review is not considered an appeal, meaning Najib remains in prison while the court considers whether to allow the application

Meanwhile, Najib is under trial in another case on 25 charges of abuse of power and money laundering connected with 2.3 billion ringgit ($551 million) that went missing from 1MDB. He could also face trials on 10 additional outstanding charges.

Najib, a senior leader of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party, had established 1MDB in 2009 when he served as prime minister and finance minister, saying it would benefit the Malaysian people.

More than $4.5 billion was diverted from 1MDB through fraudulent shell companies to corrupt officials and their associates, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The 1MDB scandal caused UMNO to be swept out of power in the 2018 general election, a first for the grand old party that had not lost national polls in Malaysia’s then 60-year history.

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