Najib’s 1MDB trial dates still up in the air

Former prime minister Najib Razak.

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court will decide tomorrow whether Najib Razak’s long-awaited 1MDB trial can begin next week.

On Monday, trial judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah tentatively fixed Aug 26 for the case to begin, with the prosecution to read the opening statement and call one or two formal witnesses to take the stand.

However, the prosecution and defence informed the court today that Najib’s SRC International trial before judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali may not finish by tomorrow.

Lead ad hoc prosecutor in the 1MDB case, Gopal Sri Ram, said he was ready to start the case on Monday as initially scheduled.

However, Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said it was unlikely that the trial could begin on Monday, for several reasons.

He said the Court of Appeal had also fixed Monday to hear the appeal by him and Najib to disqualify Sri Ram from conducting criminal prosecutions.

The duo argue that Attorney-General Tommy Thomas appointed Sri Ram under the wrong provision of the Criminal Procedure Code.

“The proceeding in the appellate court is likely to take the entire day,” Shafee said.

“Further, we have to read 732 pages of 1MDB documents that were recently supplied by the prosecution.”

He added that cross-examination of investigating officer Rosli Hussain in the SRC International case would take another two and a half days.

Saying the SRC International case would spill over to Tuesday, he urged Sequerah to consider starting the 1MDB trial on Sept 3.

However, ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram who is leading the government’s legal team in the SRC International case said he might need only less than half a day to re-examine Rosli before wrapping up.

Sequerah fixed another case management at 4.30pm tomorrow to receive updates on the situation.

The 1MDB trial was originally fixed to run from Aug 19 until Nov 14.

Najib was slapped with 25 charges of money laundering and abuse of power last September over alleged 1MDB funds amounting to RM2.28 billion deposited in his AmBank account between February 2011 and December 2014.

He is also facing four different charges, the hearing dates for which have been fixed from Jan 13 to June 2020.

Najib’s SRC International trial was supposed to end on Aug 15 but the case was adjourned after the former prime minister took medical leave due to an infection in both eyes.