KUALA LUMPUR: The 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial has been postponed as Datuk Seri Najib Razak is due to give a speech in Parliament, which is currently debating Budget 2020.
The High Court was informed by Najib's lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah that his client would be raising a very critical issue in his speech, which is expected to be delivered at 3pm today (Oct 15).
“It is not easy to get a slot to give a speech in Parliament. He made the application for the speech two weeks ago but he was only told that he got the slot a day before I told you.
“My client sends his utmost apology to Your Honour for not being present, ” Shafee said here on Tuesday.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram said that while the prosecution appreciated Najib's duty as an MP, it was unhappy with the situation.
“We have other witnesses who are on standby because we don't know when the cross-examination will be completed.
“They've put us in a difficult position. Najib could have informed the Speaker that he should be in court. His absence therefore cannot be excused, ” Sri Ram said.
Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah then reminded Shafee that the hearing was supposed to start at 2.30pm on Tuesday because Najib would be away in Parliament in the morning.
Shafee replied that Najib had persistently said that 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 hearing. All media carried news that the hearing was to resume at 2.30pm, ” he added.
Shafee said as an MP, Najib has his parliamentary duty.
“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, ” Shafee said.
Justice Sequerah: How can you ensure this won't happen again?
Shafee: The occasion when this trial is postponed has been limited in number. 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.
Justice Sequerah: This will be the last time of this situation.
The judge postponed the proceeding and ordered for the hearing to resume on Wednesday (Oct 16) at 9.30am.
According to Najib, in a Facebook post, his turn for a speech was “taken” by “the future eighth prime minister who was given 40 minutes to speak”.
Najib, 66, faces 25 charges in total – four for abuse of power that allegedly brought him financial benefit to the tune of RM2.3bil; and 21 for money laundering involving the same amount of money.
He faces imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the gratification if found guilty.