KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's jailed former prime minister Najib Razak has sought a pardon from the Southeast Asian country's king and will remain a lawmaker pending his petition, the head of parliament said on Monday.
According to Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun, the pardon request was submitted last Friday, less than two weeks after Najib began a 12-year prison term after losing his final appeal on August 23 in a graft case linked to the looting of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund.
Najib's parliamentary seat would not be vacated until King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah decides on his pardon request, he said.
It is unclear how long the process would take. If Najib isn't pardoned before September 2023, when Malaysia's general elections are due, the 69-year-old ex-premier cannot run in the polls and will automatically lose his parliamentary seat.
Local media cited Najib's aide as saying he was reportedly admitted to a hospital on Sunday, but the cause of his ailment is unclear. The prison department could not be immediately reached for comment.
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Najib's bid for pardon will not affect his four other criminal trials over the 1MDB scandal. His wife, Rosmah Mansor, was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison and a record 970-million-ringgit ($216 million) fine for corruption over a solar energy project.
Najib and Rosmah have been hit with multiple graft charges after the shocking ouster of his United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party in the 2018 elections, fueled by public anger over the 1MDB scandal.
But UMNO has since returned to power after defections caused the collapse of the reformist government that won the 2018 polls.
1MDB was a development fund that Najib set up after taking office. Investigators allege that more than $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib's associates through layers of bank accounts in the United States and other countries to finance Hollywood films and extravagant purchases that included hotels, a luxury yacht, artworks and jewelry.