Finally, 1MDB trial to start on Wednesday

KUALA LUMPUR: The long-awaited 1MDB trial, where former prime minister Najib Razak is charged with abuse of power and money laundering to the tune of RM2 billion, will start on Wednesday.

Trial judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah fixed the date after prosecutors and Najib’s lawyers updated him on the progress of the on-going SRC case in another court.

“Trial will begin on Wednesday at 9.30am with the prosecution introducing its opening statement and calling formal witnesses,” he said.

Sequerah also dismissed an application by Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to begin the 1MDB trial on Sept 3.

The lawyer asked for more time as the prosecution served on the defence two more voluminous documents yesterday afternoon.

“I would like you to renew our application to have the 1MDB case begin on Sept 3,” he said, adding that an earlier date would seriously impair the defence preparation of the case.

Moreover, he said the defence had to prepare its submission after the prosecution closed its case in the SRC trial.

“We urge you to use the discretion and be sympathetic to us so that we can prepare our 1MDB case,” he said.

Lawyer V Sithambaram, who is the ad-hoc prosecutor in the SRC case, said the prosecution was expected to close its case on Tuesday.

“We should be able to wrap up the matter by Tuesday afternoon,” he said.

Lawyer Gopal Sri Ram, who is the ad hoc prosecutor in the 1MDB case, said six formal and semi-formal witnesses have been lined up.

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 accounts between February 2011 and December 2014.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the trial will go on until Nov 14. About 60 witnesses will testify for the prosecution.

Najib is also facing three other charges, the hearing dates for which have been fixed from Jan 13 to June 2020.