KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been reprimanded by High Court Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah on Tuesday (Oct 15) following his absence from attending the afternoon 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) trial proceedings, resulting in the judge saying "it will be the last time for this situation".
The 1MDB trial on Tuesday had been postponed as the former premier is due for a speech regarding Budget 2020 in Dewan Rakyat.
This was informed by Najib's lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to Justice Sequerah at the start of the afternoon proceedings that his client was unable to attend court due to unavoidable circumstances.
"During the slot for Barisan Nasional this morning, my client's slot as the Pekan MP, was displaced by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. He is raising very critical issues in Parliament today, and that speech has been prepared over the last two weeks.
"My client would like to convey his utmost apology to Yang Arif and to my learned friend, for not being able to present himself due to unavoidable circumstances. If he forgoes that speech, he would be penalised for the next two months, ” Muhammad Shafee said.
Senior deputy public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram said while the prosecution appreciated Najib's duty as an MP, it was unhappy with the situation and raising the issue of the Dewan Rakyat slot was not a good enough reason.
"We have other witnesses who are on standby because we don't know when the cross-examination would be completed. They have put us in a difficult position. Najib could have informed the Speaker that he should be at court.
"His absence, therefore, cannot be excused. We will be more than grateful if this is the last of such cases to happen," Sri Ram said.
Justice Sequerah then reminded the counsel that the hearing was supposed to start at 2.30pm on Tuesday because Najib would only be given way in Parliament in the morning.
Muhammad Shafee replied that Najib had persistently told he had a 2.30pm hearing.
"In fact, he got in trouble for pressuring the clerk of the Speaker that he has a 2.30pm trial. All media carried news that the hearing was to be resumed at 2.30pm," he added.
Muhammad Shafee stressed, as an MP, his client is responsible for parliamentary duties.
"Once in a while, he has to speak. This is the time he has applied and he has been given a slot. If the matter can be put to rest," Muhammad Shafee said.
Justice Sequerah then questioned the counsel if he is able to ensure such a situation would not happen again to which Muhammad Shafee responded the trial has not been postponed much so far.
"I am due for an eye operation. Why? Because of this trial. I postponed it so I can continue with the case. When my client had conjunctivitis, we had no choice but to postpone," he said.
Justice Sequerah replied that it would be the last time for such a situation and adjourned the proceedings to tomorrow at 9.30am.
Najib, 66, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3bil from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount. - Bernama