Malaysia ex-PM Najib's 1MDB trial postponed to Monday

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak is facing 21 charges of money laundering and four of abuse of power for receiving illegal transfers totalling about RM2.3 billion (S$763 million). PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak is facing 21 charges of money laundering and four of abuse of power for receiving illegal transfers totalling about RM2.3 billion (S$763 million). PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The much-anticipated 1MDB trial implicating Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak, who is accused of obtaining gratification totalling about RM2.3 billion (S$763 million) while in office, has been postponed to next Monday.

This is to allow for the completion of another hearing involving SRC International, a former subsidiary of state investment firm 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad).

Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah granted the prosecution's request for a delay at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday.

Lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram had asked for the 1MDB trial to resume on Sept 3, a request endorsed by Najib's lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.

However, Judge Sequerah set next Monday as the date of resumption, but said he was prepared to "make way" should both parties need more time to wrap up the SRC trial.

"I'm prepared to be reasonable... if you need time... I can stand down and adjourn it for a while or for half a day. The trial will proceed (next) Monday but I will hear you out on Thursday," he said in response to Tan Sri Shafee, who said he would be submitting reasons why the trial should resume on Sept 3.

Najib is facing 21 charges of money laundering and four of abuse of power for receiving illegal transfers totalling about RM2.3 billion between 2011 and 2014. This is his second trial after the first, involving SRC International, began in April.

Najib has maintained that he is innocent and dismissed the charges as politically motivated.

To date, 1MDB has been probed by 10 countries, including Singapore, for alleged money laundering and graft. The United States Department of Justice has said that about US$4.5 billion (S$6.23 billion) was misappropriated from the state investment firm.

Mr Shafee told reporters yesterday that the trials involving his high-profile client "take up a lot of time".

"Lawyers literally take their work home, which means that you work from the office or home. Sometimes you don't sleep. In the SRC trial alone, many of us are lacking sleep.

 
 
 

"But if you now add another one (the 1MDB trial), it may compromise our ability to do the best defence," he said.

The scandal surrounding 1MDB, which was set up by Najib in 2009 to promote foreign investment in Malaysia, was a key factor in the defeat of his Barisan Nasional government in last year's general election.

This paved the way for opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan to take power - the first time the opposition won since Malaysia's independence in 1957.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2019, with the headline 'Najib's 1MDB trial postponed to Monday'. Print Edition | Subscribe