Life in prison for Najib: What it means and can he seek release? Lawyers explain

Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday became the first former prime minister in Malaysia to be imprisoned, after he failed in his final appeal against his guilty verdict over the misappropriation of RM42 million belonging to government-owned SRC International Sdn Bhd.

(MMO) – While the Federal Court yesterday decided to keep the 12-year jail term and RM210 million fine (which will result in an additional five-year jail term if Najib cannot afford to pay this), can Najib seek to be forgiven and released from prison instead of serving the full term? What about his four other criminal trials?

Here’s what several criminal lawyers told Malay Mail when contacted:

1. Remaining in prison while seeking release

Senior criminal lawyer Datuk Geethan Ram Vincent said that Najib cannot apply for a stay of his sentence, regardless of whether he seeks a review of the Federal Court’s decision or whether he pursues a royal pardon.

“Yes, he can file for review. Whether he will be successful is another thing as the threshold for review is very high. In the interim, he must serve sentence. There is no stay.

“And yes, he can seek a pardon but that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time,” he told Malay Mail.

2. Tell me more about the ‘Review’ route

Vivekananda Sukumaran, co-chair of the Bar Council’s criminal law committee, similarly confirmed Najib would have to serve his jail term while waiting for the outcome of his review application or the outcome of his bid for a pardon.

While Najib’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik yesterday asked for a stay of the jail sentence and fine while his client pursues a review of the Federal Court’s decision, Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat dismissed this as there is no provision for such a stay.

Vivekananda explained that the current precedent in the Federal Court is that a review is not seen as an appeal, and that a stay application can only be considered or granted when it involves an appeal.

Citing Rule 137 of the Rules of the Federal Court 1995, he said this rule recognises the Federal Court’s inherent power to review its previous decisions in order to prevent an injustice or an abuse of process, and that it has been mostly used to set aside decisions by the Federal Court.

He listed eight broad categories permitting a review, including where there was a coram failure; where the decision had been obtained by fraud or suppression of material evidence; and where there was a clear infringement of statutory law.

The other categories include where court bias can be shown; where the integrity of a court’s decision has been critically undermined; where the court failed to understand a clear point; and where it can be demonstrated that the judge read the wrong papers.


Since the Federal Court is the highest court in Malaysia and Najib had failed to overturn the previous decisions in the Court of Appeal and High Court which found him guilty in the SRC case, that was his final appeal.

But there is still one last avenue in court that he can try.

Read more here