Najib fails in final bid to stall 1MDB trial

Former prime minister Najib Razak with his lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at the Federal Court in Putrajaya today.

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today dismissed Najib Razak’s final appeal to adjourn his 1MDB trial, scheduled to begin on Aug 19, pending the ongoing SRC International Sdn Bhd case.

Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who led a five-member bench, said High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah had used his discretion correctly in refusing a delay of the 1MDB trial.

“The judge did not commit any error in exercising his judicial discretion under Section 259 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). There is no reason for appellate intervention,” she said of the unanimous ruling.

She added that the bench had no reason to give direction to the trial judge.

“However, parties can ask for direction from the judge (Sequerah) when they appear on Aug 19,” she said.

Also on the bench were Chief Judge of Malaya Azahar Mohamed, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak David Wong Dak Wah, and Federal Court judges Rohana Yusof and Idrus Harun.

At the outset of today’s proceedings, Attorney-General (AG) Tommy Thomas informed the bench that he was withdrawing his appeal as it was no longer practical to delay the 1MDB case since the prosecution’s SRC International case is reaching an end.

Investigating officer Rosli Hussain, the last prosecution witness, is now on the stand. The SRC International case is scheduled to continue until Aug 16.

However, Thomas said the 1MDB case could only begin on Aug 28 as the prosecution would be giving its witness statements to the defence today.

“The 1MDB trial can only begin 14 days after we have delivered the statements to the defence, as required under Section 402B of the CPC,” he said.

The bench then struck out the appeal.

In this unprecedented case, both the prosecution and the defence had appealed against the ruling of the High Court judge when he refused to stall the 1MDB case to allow the SRC International trial to conclude first.

Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah today submitted that Najib would not get a fair trial if the 1MDB and SRC International cases proceed simultaneously.

“The accused has the same defence team and they will be hard pressed for time to prepare the 1MDB and SRC case at the same time,” he said.

Shafee said the right to a fair trial also includes the accused’s right to representation by a competent counsel or legal team.

“Why should the right to counsel be taken away from him? He is the victim now,” he said, adding that Najib is also facing charges in two others cases apart from the 1MDB and SRC International matters.

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

He added 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.

He 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.