DAVID GREENE, HOST:
All right. A Malaysian court has found former Prime Minister Najib Razak guilty. He's been sentenced up to 12 years in prison. This was in his first corruption trial connected to the plundering of the so-called 1MDB state investment fund. This is part of one of the largest, most far-reaching financial scandals in history. It involves at least 10 countries, including the United States. Michael Sullivan reports.
MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Things could have gone a lot better for Najib today - the judge finding him guilty on all seven counts of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and three counts of money laundering in a trial widely seen as a test of Malaysia's commitment to the rule of law.
BRIDGET WELSH: I think it's a good day for Malaysia.
SULLIVAN: Bridget Welsh is a research associate with the University of Nottingham and an expert on Malaysian politics, speaking from the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
WELSH: This decision actually reaffirms that the rule of law is working. The judge was very careful in laying out his decision. And I think that there was the sense that the decision moved forward in a very uncertain political environment, and the judiciary at least has ruled the day. And with that, there has been a sense of justice.
SULLIVAN: Najib's fall from grace has been swift. Just two years ago, then-Prime Minister Najib's party was dealt a shocking defeat in the general election, in part because of the public's disgust with the 1MDB scandal, which saw billions siphoned off from the government investment fund into individual bank accounts including, prosecutors say, Najib's. Najib has maintained his innocence and said on Facebook last night that he was misled by others and that the charges against him are political in nature.
WELSH: It's going to be a long process of appeals, and there are two more cases. And it may be a number of years, but, you know, he will basically not be allowed to contest for an election during this process.
SULLIVAN: And that's important, Bridget Welsh says, and helps Malaysia's current prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, who heads a shaky coalition that includes Najib's party. She says Muhyiddin will gain the most from today's rulings because he will be seen as putting the country before politics.
WELSH: Malaysia's restoring its reputation internationally. You know, it used to be in the top 10 countries for corruption. Now this makes it stand tall. And I think that is - that really serves Malaysia well.
SULLIVAN: For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
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