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Jailed former Malaysia premier Najib Razak seeks to serve remaining sentence under house arrest

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s imprisoned former Prime Minister Najib Razak is seeking to serve the rest of his prison term under house arrest, two months after his sentence in a corruption case was reduced by half.

His surprise application filed Monday said he had “clear information” that then-king Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah issued an order during the Jan. 29 pardon’s board meeting, which cut his 12-year jail sentence by half and sharply reduced a fine, allowing him to finish his sentence under house arrest.

Najib asked the court to have the government verify and carry out the order. His application was due to be heard Thursday but was postponed to April 17.

Sultan Abdullah hails from Najib’s hometown of Pahang. He ended his five-year reign on Jan. 30 under Malaysia’s unique rotating monarchy system. A new king took office on Jan. 31.

Najib, 70, has served less than two years of his sentence, supposed to end on Aug. 23, 2028, after his sentence was commuted. He was charged and found guilty in a corruption case linked to the multibillion-dollar looting of state fund 1MDB.

In his application, he accused the pardons board, home minister and the attorney-general among seven entities of concealing the sultan’s order “in bad faith.”

Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail told reporters later Thursday that he has “no knowledge” of such an order, adding that he wasn’t a member of the pardons board.

The others named in the application couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Najib set up the 1MDB development fund shortly after he took office in 2009. Investigators allege at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib’s associates through layers of bank accounts in the U.S. and other countries and financed Hollywood films and extravagant purchases that included hotels, a luxury yacht, art and jewelry. More than $700 million landed in Najib’s bank accounts.

The national outrage over the scandal led to the shocking 2018 election defeat of the party that had governed Malaysia since independence. Najib was sentenced in 2020 and two years later, he lost his final appeal in court, becoming the country’s first former premier to be imprisoned.

Despite his conviction, Najib still holds clout in his party, the United Malays National Organization, which is part of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government that took power after the 2022 elections.

Najib has maintained his innocence, alleging that Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho duped him. Low, thought to be the mastermind of the scandal, remains at large.

The former premier’s separate graft trial over the 1MDB scandal is ongoing.

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This story has been updated to correct that the application was filed Monday, not Wednesday.

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