1MDB critics freed of sabotaging nation’s banking system

kharudin-mathiasKUALA LUMPUR: Nearly two years after they were charged, the Sessions Court today acquitted former Umno leader Khairuddin Abu Hassan and lawyer Matthias Chang of the charge of sabotaging the nation’s banking and financial services.

Judge Wan Norisham Wan Yaakob said the outright acquittal was appropriate as the prosecution had not presented any evidence linking them to the charge.

“The court also agrees with the defence that the case laws submitted by the prosecution to order a discharge not amounting to an acquittal are not applicable in this case,” he said.

Norisham, instead, said the submission by the defence with three case laws was spot-on with the facts of the case in requesting for an outright acquittal.

The judge then ordered Khairuddin and Chang to be freed, with the RM10,000 bail amount each posted to be returned.

“I also order the impounded passports of both to be given back,” he said.

Present to hear the verdict was former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Mahathir later told reporters today’s ruling revealed that the court had made its decision according to the facts of the case.

Government lawyer Awang Armadajaya Awang Mahmud yesterday informed Wan Norisham that the prosecution was discontinuing the case.

“We are not pursuing the case in the interest of justice and fairness. We want the accused to be given a discharge, but not amounting to an acquittal” he had said.

However, Khairuddin and Chang’s lawyers insisted their clients should be acquitted as there should be no charge hanging over their heads.

If an acquittal is given, the prosecution cannot charge them again on the same facts but a discharge would enable the prosecution to frame the same charge against them again later.

Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, appearing for Khairuddin, had said yesterday that merely being present at five overseas police stations by the two did not amount to committing the offence as charged.

Haniff had said the defence would have revealed, if the case had gone on, that the charge had been made in bad faith by “those in power”.

“The prosecution’s offer of a discharge now means they can be charged again, and it is akin to a dagger hanging over their heads,” Haniff had said.

Both were jointly charged under Section 124L of the Penal Code in late 2015 for being at police stations to make reports against 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The charge sheet states the two were at the Office of the Chief of Police Economic and Finance Criminal Divison in Paris, Charing Cross police station in London, Attorney-General’s Office of Switzerland in Berne, Wai Chan police station in Hong Kong and Cantonment police headquarters in Singapore.

They were at these locations between June 28 and Aug 26, 2015.

The charge said their act was intended to sabotage Malaysia’s banking and financial services. The offence, if proved, could have landed them in jail for up to 15 years.