KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told the High Court today that the government was trying to end Najib Razak’s political career by making the former prime minister a bankrupt over his failure to pay taxes.
Shafee said Najib had become popular after being out of power and was instrumental in the opposition winning five by-elections.
“Once my client is labelled a bankrupt, he will be out of the political arena,” Shafee submitted in applying to stay a suit brought by the Inland Revenue Board (IRB).
Article 48 of the Federal Constitution states that an elected representative – MP or assemblyman – is disqualified, for among others, being declared a bankrupt.
Najib, is currently the MP for Pekan, the seat he has been holding from 1976.
Shafee said his client’s case was exceptional as he would not have any remedy once the IRB obtained a summary judgment from the court over his failure to pay RM1.69 billion in unpaid taxes between 2011 and 2017.
He said Najib could not pay the tax as he did not have the resources, unlike Amazon.com owner Jeff Bezos.
He said under the law, a person must settle the outstanding amount even though an appeal has been made before the Special Commissioners of the IRB to review the assessment of tax.
Shafee also said the proceedings to obtain judgment should only be started after Najib’s SRC International and 1MDB trial were over.
“The money that is sought by the IRB is also a subject matter of the ongoing criminal trials,” he added.
Lawyer D P Naban, who is appearing for the IRB on a special licence given by Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, said Najib’s stay application is premature.
“He should come to the court only after we have succeeded in getting a summary judgment,” he said.
Naban said if the court granted the stay now, it could not even hear the summary judgment proceedings.
Naban said the IRB might not necessarily take action to declare Najib a bankrupt.
“We could go for an order for sale, institute a garnishing order or get a writ of seizure and sale,” he added.
Judge Ahmad Bache will deliver his ruling on Feb 28.
Last year, Najib filed a stay application to stop the government’s move to obtain the judgment without contest.
On June 25, the government, through the Inland Revenue Board (LHDN), filed the suit against Najib seeking RM1.69 billion in unpaid taxes with interest at 5% a year from the date of judgment, as well as costs and other relief deemed fit by the court.
The LHDN insisted Najib had to pay the RM1.69 billion even if he had filed an appeal against the assessment.