Wife of Malaysia’s jailed ex-PM handed 10 years in prison for bribery

The wife of the former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for soliciting and receiving bribes in exchange for government contracts, one week after her husband was sent to prison for corruption linked to the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal.

Rosmah Mansor, 70, had pleaded not guilty to three charges of soliciting bribes and receiving 6.5m ringgit (£1.3m) in exchange for helping a company secure a contract to provide solar power to schools.

The high court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan said prosecutors proved their case beyond reasonable doubt. The judge added that her defence was “bare denial and unsubstantiated”.

Rosmah also faces a fine of 970m ringgit. She can seek bail while she appeals against the judgment.

The verdict on Thursday comes just over a week since Najib began a 12-year sentence for breach of trust, abuse of power, and money laundering in a conviction linked to the 1MDB scandal, one of the world’s biggest financial frauds.

Najib and Rosmah have faced various charges since he lost an election in 2018 amid public anger over huge corruption during his administration.

In the aftermath of their election defeat, the couple sought to leave the country by private jet, according to a flight manifesto leaked at the time. They were banned from travelling by the country’s then leader, Mahathir Mohamad.

Police raids on several properties linked to Najib revealed further details of their opulent lifestyles. Police seized hundreds of designer handbags, including 272 Hermès bags estimated to be worth nearly $13m, as well as 1,400 necklaces, 423 watches, 2,200 rings, 1,600 brooches and 14 tiaras.

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Rosmah’s corruption case is not related to the 1MDB scandal.

Prosecutors had argued Rosmah exerted influence over government spending, despite having no official position, and helped a company secure a 1.25bn ringgit contract to provide solar energy panels to schools on Borneo.

They accused Rosmah of seeking a bribe of 187.5m ringgit and receiving 6.5m ringgit from an official of the company that won the project in 2016 and 2017.

Her former aide, who was jointly charged with Rosmah but later testified for the prosecution, portrayed her as an influential figure who was often lobbied by businesspeople seeking government contracts. The aide testified Rosmah was feared by civil servants and requests from her staff were often carried out quickly.

Witnesses said a special department, called First Lady of Malaysia, was set up to handle Rosmah’s affairs. The court heard she spent 100,000 ringgit a month to hire online propagandists to deflect criticism of her lavish lifestyle, the Associated Press reported.

Rosmah has said she was framed by her former aide as well as government and company officials involved in the project.

Najib is being held at the country’s largest prison in Kajang, which holds up to 5,000 prisoners. The prisons department has denied claims that VIP inmates were granted more comfortable living arrangements, such as air conditioning and access to TV and internet.

His daughter, Nooryana Najwa, was mocked on social media this week after she reportedly lamented that her father would be missing his usual Starbucks order. She said on Instagram that she could not face ordering from the chain because she knew her father, stuck in prison, would be missing his caramel macchiato. Some responded online by announcing they would make sure to buy the drink the next day.

Najib faces four other corruption cases. Rosmah also faces 17 charges of money laundering and tax evasion for illegally receiving 7.1m ringgit between 2013 and 2017 in a separate case linked to 1MDB, though her trial has not yet begun.

The 1MDB scandal has led to corruption investigations around the world, including the US, Singapore, and Switzerland.