Najib back in court for procedural appeals

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak outside the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Wednesday, the start of his trial linked to the alleged plundering of state fund 1MDB.
Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak outside the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Wednesday, the start of his trial linked to the alleged plundering of state fund 1MDB.PHOTO: BERNAMA

His lead lawyer - himself facing charges - seeks more time, saying trial is being rushed

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak was back in court yesterday with three appeals on his corruption case related to SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib had pleaded not guilty to seven charges on Wednesday, at the start of his much-anticipated trial linked to the alleged plundering of state fund 1MDB in a financial scandal that shocked the world.

He is accused of receiving RM42 million (S$14 million) for obtaining a government guarantee for a RM4 billion loan taken up by SRC International, a firm set up as a coal supply business.

The sum is a fraction of the US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) that investigators allege made its way into his personal bank accounts from 1MDB.

Najib has consistently denied wrongdoing and says the charges against him are politically motivated.

The SRC trial is the first of four for Najib, who faces a total of 42 charges of corruption and money laundering linked to 1MDB.

Yesterday, the Federal Court heard three appeals from Najib's lead lawyer Shafee Abdullah. These were for a gag order to prevent the media and public from discussing the case; to request additional documents; and to oppose the Attorney-General's move to withdraw a certificate transferring seven charges against Najib from the Sessions Court to the High Court.

The prosecution, led by Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, appealed to the court to withhold producing a letter of appointment for one of its ad hoc prosecutors, Mr Sulaiman Abdullah.

 
 
 

The SRC trial was originally scheduled to begin in February, but appeals over procedural matters led to the case being postponed several times.

Shafee, who himself faces two counts of money laundering, managed to get the appeal hearing pushed back after he said he had hurt his wrist when his pet dog jumped on him.

The appeals have been criticised as a tactic to delay the trial.

Yesterday, Shafee asked for "more time" to deliberate the appeals, given the "manner in which the trial is rushed".

Najib was charged in connection with the SRC case last July. The SRC trial resumes on April 15.

The presiding judge, Chief Justice Richard Malanjum, heard three of the four appeals, and slated the fourth one to be heard today. The decision on all four appeals is likely to be delivered at a later date.

Najib faces another trial for money laundering and corruption over RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds. This would likely be postponed to next month to make way for the SRC case.

He also has court dates in July. He and former treasury secretary-general Irwan Serigar Abdullah have been jointly charged with six counts of criminal breach of trust involving RM6.6 billion worth of government payments made to an Abu Dhabi fund and Chinese companies.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2019, with the headline 'Najib back in court for procedural appeals'. Print Edition | Subscribe