vonrichesandlaws 24.08.2020

Riches and Laws

How can law address the depletion of environmental resources? Are some laws better than others, and if so, why? Which factors influence the nature of legal instruments? This and more is explored here in this blog.

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Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak got it made. Born as eldest son of Malaysia’s former prime minister Abdul Razak, his course to the highest office in the land was set from a young age. Yet despite this life of privilege and opportunity, Najib funnelled billions of euros from state coffers to his personal accounts. Now he is being held to account. On July 27th 2020, the Kuala Lumpur High Court found Mr. Najib guilty of abusing his office for rent-seeking, money-laundering and for misappropriating public property. It convicted him to a 12-year prison sentence and to the payment of a 44,75 Mio. EUR fine.

Mr. Najib announced that he will appeal the sentence despite it being much lighter than it could have been. Under Malaysian law, misappropriating public property can be punished with up to twenty years and money-laundering with up to five years in prison. However, should he indeed appeal, he may want to come up with a better defence for his actions, since the current one all but makes the case of the prosecutors for them. Written in the dry language of the court decision is the story of a man who thought that he was king – a man with no obligations and entitled to everything.

Mr. Najib argues that though having been simultaneously prime minister and finance minister, he did not know about the murky on-goings at the state-owned company 1MDB, a company which his ministry controlled. He also argues that he had no obligation to know or investigate, why more than 800 Mio. EUR disappeared after he had personally gotten involved in getting this sum transferred from 1MDB to one of its subsidiaries.

Similarly, in explaining away the considerable excess balance in his personal accounts, he claims that he did not keep track of his finances. This was someone else’s job. Co-incidentally the same someone, Jho Low, who was also the director of the 1MDB subsidiary from which the 800 Mio. EUR vanished, and which inexplicably deposited millions into Mr. Najib’s personal accounts. Mr. Najib certainly never directed Jho Low to do so. No, Low must have done this on his own accord.

All the while he thought, that the source of his enormous wealth were donations of the late King of Saudi-Arabia. They had been promised to him in exchange for Mr. Najib’s efforts to promote the Islam in Malaysia. Talk about foreign interference, but then again, what are a couple of billions from one king to another?


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