KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The corruption trial of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak over charges related to a multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB has been postponed, his lawyer said on Monday (Feb 11), citing a court ruling.
The trial was originally set to begin on Tuesday (Feb 12).
Harvinderjit Singh, one of Najib’s lawyers, told Reuters that the trial had been postponed pending an appeal by Najib.
No new date was set.
Najib had pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power over the suspected transfer of RM42 million (S$14 million) into his bank account from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit.
The expected trial was dubbed in the media as the "SRC International" trial, and was fixed for a 11-day hearing this month starting on Tuesday.
The prosecution has submitted over 3,000 pages of documents, including the minutes of meetings of SRC International, and is calling 50 witnesses to testify during the entire trial.
The seven counts are slated to be the first set of charges to be tried in court out of the 42 levelled against Najib in the case - described as "the worst kleptocracy scandal ever" - linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
On July 4 last year, the 66-year-old MP from Pahang state claimed trial to a charge of abuse of power and three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) for allegedly misappropriating RM42 million in funds belonging to SRC International.
On Aug 8, he appeared in court again for the second time and was charged with three counts of money laundering involving the same RM42 million.
Since then, Najib has been charged four more times, making it a total of six times that he has appeared before the court.
Prior to the trial's postponement, Najib had challenged the appointment of Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah as the lead prosecutor in the case.
Mr Sulaiman, a senior lawyer who is working on Najib's case pro bono, was appointed by Malaysia's Attorney-General Thomas.
Najib's lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had argued against the legitimacy of Mr Sulaiman's appointment and contended that it was the duty of the prosecution to tender the letter of authorisation (fiat) before the court, on grounds that the production of the document was a prerequisite.
The prosecution refused to produce the letter, as this has been classified under the Official Secrets Act.
On Dec 18 last year, Justice Mohd Nazlan dismissed Najib's application to remove Mr Sulaiman, saying it lacked merit.
Najib is appealing against the High Court's decision.
Mr Sulaiman is leading the prosecution team, which will include prominent criminal lawyer Datuk V. Sithambaram, who has been appointed to assist, as well as Deputy Public Prosecutors Ishak Mohd Yusoff, Budiman Lutfi Mohamed and Muhammad Izzat Fauzan.
Leading the defence is Mr Muhammad Shafee, who is being assisted by a team of lawyers including Mr Harvinderjit Singh and Mr Muhammad Farhan Shafee.