PETALING JAYA: Attorney-General Tommy Thomas announced today he is stepping aside as lead prosecutor in the coming trial of former prime minister Najib Razak, and appointed two senior lawyers to handle the prosecution and preparation for the case.
He named Sulaiman Abdullah, a former Malaysian Bar president, to lead the prosecution.
Retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram, who has returned to private practice, has been appointed senior deputy public prosecutor to spearhead the process of studying the investigation papers (IPs), preparing charges and prosecuting the accused at the trial set for Feb 12 to March 29 next year.
The two lawyers have agreed to waive their fees and will serve on a pro bono basis.
“With the twin appointments of the leading lights in the Malaysian Bar, our commitment to prosecuting those responsible for the greatest kleptocracy in the history of the world with the gravity that it deserves, and that ordinary Malaysians expect, cannot be doubted,” Thomas said in a statement.
Najib is facing criminal breach of trust and money laundering charges. He has claimed trial.
The charges are related to the RM42mil allegedly deposited into his personal bank accounts from SRC International Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), placed under the jurisdiction of the finance ministry in 2012.
Explaining his decision, Thomas said he had come to realise he could not combine his “onerous commitments” as AG and public prosecutor with the simultaneous preparation and conduct of the Najib case.
He said he also has responsibility for the varied and multitasked requirements as the chief legal officer in a reforming administration.
“A trial of this importance and complexity requires the full-time attention of lead counsel, not just during the duration of the trial, but also in the months leading to the trial, followed by the preparation of detailed written submissions after the trial.
“Unfortunately, the demands of equally urgent and pressing matters of state do not permit me the time required to focus on this prosecution.”
Accordingly, he said, he was exercising his discretion under Section 379 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to appoint Sulaiman to lead the prosecution in the case.
He said Sulaiman is one of the nation’s leading barristers, with substantial experience in criminal law, including white collar crime.
“His eloquence is unmatched and his intellect second to none.
“Datuk Sulaiman has impeccable integrity and is a principled lawyer,” he said.
On Sri Ram’s appointment, Thomas said the IPs into the numerous fraudulent deals connected to the 1MDB affair have not been submitted to his chambers by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the police.
Only one IP, concerning businessman Jho Low, had been submitted and which resulted in charges and the issue of warrants of arrest against him and his father, Larry Low Hock Peng, last week.
Thomas said his office would need to study all the IPs received from the various agencies, prepare charges and prosecute the accused at trials.
He said this would be the task of Sri Ram whose appointment as senior DPP is made under Section 376 (3) of the CPC.
“He (Sri Ram) has substantial experience in criminal law matters. His strong and determined personality will no doubt enhance the investigation and prosecution in all matters pertaining to the 1MDB scandal,” he said.