Government offers to withdraw appeal against 1MDB critics

1MDB critics Matthias Chang and Khairuddin Abu Hassan. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: After more than a year, the government has offered to withdraw its appeal against a Sessions Court’s decision to acquit 1MDB critics Khairuddin Abu Hassan and lawyer Matthias Chang of allegedly sabotaging the nation’s banking and financial services.

Lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali said the matter was made known to High Court registrar Nur Ain Mustapa during a case management yesterday.

Rafique said deputy public prosecutor Faizah Salleh, who represented the government, had informed them of Attorney-General Tommy Thomas’s decision.

“The appeal will be called up before judge Azman Abdullah on Aug 27 for the government to make a formal application to withdraw it,” he said.

He said the withdrawal would mean that the Session Court’s decision remains.

On May 19 last year, the government filed a notice appeal for the High Court to set aside the ruling of Sessions Court judge Wan Norisham Wan Yaakob to acquit Khairuddin and Chang of the charge.

Chang, in a video posted on YouTube, subsequently claimed that the Attorney-General’s Chambers was appealing on the instructions of “the powers that 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 said in the video.

Najib and his Barisan Nasional coalition were removed from power following the May 9 general election.

Last year, Wan Norisham said the acquittal was appropriate as the prosecution had not presented any evidence linking Chang and Khairuddin 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. A discharge, on the other hand, would enable the prosecution to frame the same charge against them at a later point.

Khairuddin’s counsel Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla had said that the duo’s presence at five overseas police stations did not amount to them committing the offence as charged.

Khairuddin and Chang were jointly charged under Section 124L of the Penal Code in late 2015 with being at the police stations to make reports against 1MDB.

According to the charge sheet, the two were at the Office of the Chief of Police Economic and Finance Criminal Division 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.