Govt appeals ‘acquittal’ of 1MDB critics

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PETALING JAYA: The government has filed an appeal against the decision of the Sessions Court in giving an outright acquittal to former Umno leader Khairuddin Abu Hassan and lawyer Matthias Chang for allegedly sabotaging the nation’s banking and financial services.

Khairuddin’s lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla said the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) filed a notice of appeal on May 19, a week after the Sessions Court’s decision.

“I received a letter on Tuesday on the public prosecutor appealing against the decision,” he told FMT.

The lawyer said his client and himself were not surprised that the matter would be going to the High Court.

“The AG, who is also the public prosecutor, only wanted to give the two accused persons a discharge not amounting to an acquittal but the court ruled it should be an outright acquittal,” he said.

Sessions Court judge Wan Norisham Wan Yaakob now has to write the grounds of judgment within eight weeks for the High Court to hear the government’s appeal.

Haniff said he has an inkling why the government was appealing but would not reveal the reason at this point in time.

Meanwhile, Chang, in a video posted on YouTube, claimed the AGC was appealing on the instruction of the “powers to be”.

“Prime Minister Najib Razak is demanding a pound of flesh from me and my client (Khairuddin) by filing an appeal to the High Court,” he alleged in the video.

On May 12, Wan Norisham said the outright acquittal was appropriate as the prosecution had not presented any evidence linking them to the charge.

Government lawyer Awang Armadajaya Awang Mahmud informed the court 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 later.

Haniff had said that merely being present at five overseas police stations by the two did not amount to committing the offence as charged.

Both were jointly charged under Section 124L of the Penal Code in late 2015 for being at the 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 charged with being 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 proven, could have landed them in jail for up to 15 years.