KUALA LUMPUR: The Magistrate’s Court here ordered Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli to stand trial on a charge of allegedly defaming Tabung Haji (TH) on his Facebook two years ago.
The court decision came a few hours after he was convicted and sentenced to 30 months’ jail by the Shah Alam Sessions Court under the Banking and Financial Institution Act (Bafia).
Magistrate Umzarul An Nur Umar today dismissed a preliminary objection by Rafizi to strike out his criminal defamation case on the grounds that the magistrate does not need to look into the complaint lodged by TH’s chief operations officer Rozaida Omar against Rafizi.
Yesterday, his lawyer Gobind Singh had raised a preliminary objection before the trial started, stating the magistrate must conduct an examination of the complaint under Section 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
However, deputy public prosecutor Abazafree Abbas argued the provision was not applicable in Rafizi’s case as Section 133 only applied to private summons cases.
Rafizi had claimed trial to the amended charge of criminal defamation under Section 500 of the Penal Code last year.
The charge was amended after he complained it was vague.
In the amended charge, it was alleged that Rafizi had claimed that the pilgrim board’s reserves had suffered a deficit for two years in a row, thus making TH incapable of returning all the savings by depositors should all of them decide to take out their savings in one go.
He further claimed that the RM3.53 billion profit announced by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom did not take into account the losses suffered due to the drop in shares and security bonds that TH holds for its investment.
Another detail in the charge pertains to claims made by Rafizi that TH had paid bonuses that amounted to more than what it had earned in 2012 and 2014.
Rafizi previously alleged that the 2012 excess bonus was due to the approaching general election, while the 2014 payout was due to the 1MDB issue as the authorities needed to convince the public that issues affecting the state-owned fund had no effect on the local financial market.
According to the charge, he was accused of committing the offence at the Tabung Haji building on Jalan Tun Razak here on Feb 18, 2016.
If found guilty, he will face a maximum of two years’ jail, or fine, or both.
Besides Bafia, Rafizi was convicted and sentenced to 18 months’ jail under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for leaking a 1MDB audit report during a press conference.
He will be unable to stand in the coming election if he fails to set aside the OSA conviction along with the 18-month jail sentence, and also this Bafia-related sentence.
Article 48 of the Federal Constitution disqualifies a person from being an MP for five years should the elected representative be convicted and sentenced to more than one year in jail, or fined more than RM2,000.