Malaysian PM Najib gets stay in opposition suit on election spending

Mr Najib Razak's lawyer said the Prime Minister will be answering questions about the RM2.6 billion in his personal accounts during the current Parliament sitting.
Mr Najib Razak's lawyer said the Prime Minister will be answering questions about the RM2.6 billion in his personal accounts during the current Parliament sitting.PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's High Court has granted Prime Minister Najib Razak and three other parties a stay of proceedings in a lawsuit brought by the opposition against them over the alleged breach of election laws related to the US$700 million (S$971 million) of political donations deposited into Datuk Seri Najib's accounts.

Meanwhile, Mr Najib's lawyer said he would be answering questions about the RM2.6 billion in his personal accounts during the current Parliament sitting.

The opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) are suing Mr Najib, Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the Election Commission (EC) for the alleged breach of election laws following an expose earlier this year by The Wall Street Journal that US$700 million had been deposited into the Prime Minister's personal accounts.

The premier has said the amount was made up of political donations and denied taking money for personal gain.

High Court judicial commissioner Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab granted the stay application by Mr Najib and Tengku Adnan after hearing submissions from the parties on Tuesday.

The judge said that there were special circumstances to grant the application pending the three parties' application to strike out the suit, the Malay Mail Online reported.

"All the proceedings should be stayed pending the striking out of the application," he said in court.

The suit was brought about on Aug 12 by members of the PKR, including the party's jailed opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, former Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) MP for Kuala Selangor Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and PKR Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, among others.

In a statement of claim, the plaintiffs said that Mr Najib committed serious offences under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act, Financial Services Act, Exchange Control Act and the Penal Code.

They contended that the US$700 million received and spent by Mr Najib and his ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in the 2013 general election far exceeded the permitted expenditure of RM94.7million (S$30.7 million). Umno is the anchor party of the BN coalition.

The High Court on Tuesday also set Nov 11 for the final case management. Mr Najib's lawyer Datuk Hafarizam Harun had requested Nov 4 be set for the case management, but the plaintiffs had sought a later date, a request which the judge allowed.

"I have asked in court for an early date for case management and also for the hearing to strike out the application as the PM wanted to answer the issue of the RM2.6 billion," he was quoted telling reporters after the proceedings, the Malaysiakini website reported.

"I don't want the answer in Parliament or in court to have a bearing on the hearing here or vice versa. Whatever is raised in court regarding the RM2.6 billion should not be raised in Parliament," he added.