KUALA LUMPUR: The high profile corruption trial of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (pic) – the first in a series of charges – is scheduled to start tomorrow but this may be stalled due to a last-minute application by the defence to stay the hearing.
Najib, the first former Prime Minister of Malaysia to find himself in the dock, has filed an application to stay his trial over the seven charges involving RM42mil in funds belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd.
This is despite Attorney General Tommy Thomas having informed the court on Thursday that the prosecution was ready to commence with its case tomorrow.
Dubbed the “SRC International” trial by the media and fixed for a 11-day hearing this month, it is expected to attract local and global attention.
Should the trial proceed, three witnesses are expected to take the stand tomorrow, although Bernama reports that nine witnesses, including government officers, are ready to testify.
“We have also prepared witness statements.
“After the witnesses read out their statements, the defence will cross-examine them,” sources told Bernama.
The prosecution has submitted over 3,000 pages of documents, including the minutes of meetings of SRC International, and is calling 50 witnesses to testify during the entire trial.
The seven counts are slated to be the first set of charges to be tried in court out of the 42 levelled against Najib in the case – described as “the worst kleptocracy scandal ever” – linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MBD).
On July 4 last year, the 66-year-old Pekan MP claimed trial to a charge of abuse of power and three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) for allegedly misappropriating RM42mil in funds belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd, a unit of 1MDB.
On Aug 8, he appeared in court again for the second time and was charged with three counts of money laundering involving the same RM42mil.
Since then, Najib has been charged four more times, making it a total of six times that he has appeared before the court.
There are several interlocutory appeals filed by Najib’s team, including an appeal against a High Court’s decision allowing the withdrawal of a certificate of transfer by the prosecutor.
The stay application was filed at the Court of Appeal registry with a certificate of urgency, and his lawyers are hoping for this to be heard today.
High Court judge Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali had on Feb 7 allowed the application by Thomas to withdraw the certificate to transfer the seven charges against Najib from the Sessions Court to the High Court.
Saying that the prosecution was however ready to proceed with the case, Thomas added that “witness statements had been served on the defence and subpoenas had also been served to witnesses.”
“The prosecution has complied with regulations under Section 51A of the Criminal Procedure Code pertaining to the delivery of documents,” he said.
However, according to Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, the withdrawal had affected the entire proceeding.
On Jan 28, Najib was charged in the High Court but on Feb 7, Thomas had withdrawn these and asked for him to be given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.
The next day, the former Umno president pleaded not guilty to three counts of money laundering involving RM27mil of SRC International’s funds after he was re-charged with the same charges in the Sessions Court.
“We will ask for the three additional charges to be jointly tried with the other three counts of money laundering brought earlier in court on Aug 8 as they involve the same funds (SRC International),” sources informed Bernama.
Prior to this, Najib has also challenged the appointment of Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah as the lead prosecutor in the case.
Sulaiman, a senior lawyer who is working on Najib’s case pro bono, was appointed by Thomas.
Muhammad Shafee had argued against the legitimacy of Sulaiman’s appointment and contended that it was the duty of the prosecution to tender the letter of authorisation (fiat) before the court on grounds that the production of the document was a prerequisite.
The prosecution refused to produce the letter as this has been classified under the Official Secrets Act.
On Dec 18 last year, Justice Mohd Nazlan dismissed Najib’s application to remove Sulaiman, saying it lacked merit.
Najib is appealing the High Court’s decision.
Sulaiman is leading the prosecution team, which will include prominent criminal lawyer Datuk V. Sithambaram, who has been appointed to assist, as well as DPPs Datuk Ishak Mohd Yusoff, Budiman Lutfi Mohamed and Muhammad Izzat Fauzan.
Leading the defence is Muhammad Shafee, who is being assisted by a team of lawyers including Harvinderjit Singh and Muhammad Farhan Shafee.