KUALA LUMPUR • A Malaysian court yesterday postponed the corruption trial of former prime minister Najib Razak over charges related to a multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB pending an appeal, his lawyer said.
Najib has pleaded not guilty to 10 charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power and his trial was originally set to begin today.
But his lawyers filed an application last week to stay the trial pending an appeal over a lower court's ruling to transfer some of the charges to the Kuala Lumpur High Court, media reported.
Mr Harvinderjit Singh, one of Najib's lawyers, told Reuters in a brief text message that the Court of Appeal had agreed to postpone the trial "until the appeal is heard".
No new date for the trial or the appeal has been set, he said.
Najib was ousted in an election in May last year amid public fury over the alleged theft of US$4.5 billion (S$6 billion) from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The charges against Najib, 66, relate to a suspected transfer of RM42 million (S$14 million) to his bank account from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit.
The trial is the first of several criminal proceedings that Najib is expected to face over the 1MDB scandal so far, and the sum involved is a fraction of the US$1 billion that investigators say allegedly made its way into the former premier's bank accounts.
The charges against Najib, 66, relate to a suspected transfer of RM42 million (S$14 million) to his bank account from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit. The trial is the first of several criminal proceedings that Najib is expected to face over the 1MDB scandal so far, and the sum involved is a fraction of the US$1 billion that investigators say allegedly made its way into his bank accounts.
At least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore, have launched money laundering and graft probes into 1MDB, set up by Najib in 2009.
US prosecutors say money stolen from 1MDB was used to buy a private jet, luxury real estate, artworks by Picasso and Monet, as well as jewellery for Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor. Najib and his wife both deny wrongdoing.
SRC was the initial focus of Malaysian investigators as all the suspicious transactions involving the firm were made through Malaysian entities, unlike other 1MDB-related transactions that went through foreign banks and companies.
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 Tommy 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.
REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK