Court affirms Najib’s 1MDB trial must begin on Aug 19

Former prime minister Najib Razak.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Court of Appeal today affirmed the High Court decision that Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial on alleged money laundering and abuse of power must begin as scheduled on Aug 19.

This follows the appellate court’s decision to dismiss the appeal by the attorney-general (AG) to give priority to the ongoing SRC International Sdn Bhd trial where the former prime minister faces seven criminal charges.

A three-member Court of Appeal bench chaired by Abdul Rahman Sebli said they believed High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah had used his discretion in having the 1MDB case proceed as scheduled.

“The judge has given valid reason for refusing to postpone the 1MDB case,” Rahman said in the unanimous ruling.

Others on the bench were Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Hasnah Mohammad Hashim.

Rahman said the court has ultimate control over cases under Section 251 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

He said the prosecution cannot choose to adjourn a case or utilise the court as a mere repository.

He added that the judge had been willing to accommodate parties in continuing with the SRC International trial.

“For this reason, we do not see this as a fit and proper case for appellate intervention,” he said.

On July 18, Sequerah said he found no reasonable cause to further delay the 1MDB case until the SRC International case is over, as applied for by the AG.

“It is in the public interest for the (1MDB) case to proceed,” he said, adding that the trial had already been stalled twice.

Najib, too, had supported the AG’s application to postpone the 1MDB trial, which is slated to run from Aug 19 to Nov 14.

Najib’s SRC International trial was supposed to end on Aug 15. However, AG Tommy Thomas had said that it was progressing more slowly than the prosecution expected.

Najib, in his affidavit in support of Thomas’ postponement bid, said he and his defence team might be prejudiced if both the 1MDB and SRC International trials proceed at the same time.

Najib was slapped with 25 charges of money laundering and abuse of power last September over alleged 1MDB funds in his AmBank account.

He was accused of abusing his position to obtain RM2.28 billion in bribes in February 2011 and December 2014.

He was also said to have transferred the RM2.28 billion in illegal funds to his bank account and to have subsequently used the money.

Meanwhile, Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah urged the court to prepare its written grounds quickly as he had instructions to file an appeal in the Federal Court.