KUALA LUMPUR – The first nine witnesses are all set to testify in the most anticipated criminal case in the country involving Datuk Seri Najib Razak, whose trial is scheduled to begin tomorrow.
The witnesses include government servants who have been served subpoenas to attend the trial.
All eyes will be on the trial as it not only marks the first time a former Malaysian leader is being dragged to court to answer criminal charges, but it has also been described as “the worst kleptocracy scandal ever”.
However, even as the prosecution team prepares to get on with the trial, it is uncertain if it will proceed as Najib has applied for a stay, which will be heard at the Court of Appeal this afternoon.
“Witness statements have been served on the defence and subpoenas have been served to witnesses,” Bernama reported, adding that the prosecution had complied with regulations under Section 51A of the Criminal Procedure Code relating to the delivery of documents.
“We have on standby nine witnesses but it depends on how the trial goes on the day.
“We have prepared witness statements and after the witnesses read out their statements, the defence will cross-examine them,” it reported, quoting sources.
Najib, who was the sixth prime minister, has been slapped with dozens of charges relating to money laundering, criminal breach of trust (CBT) and corruption.
The court charges against Najib, 66, who was prime minister from April 2009 to May last year, has drawn worldwide attention and are mostly related to scandal-plagued 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Both the Malaysian public and the international community have been transfixed by the scandal.
Najib has been charged six times with 42 counts of criminal charges.
The former Barisan Nasional chairman and former Umno president has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Najib, who is Pekan member of parliament, was first brought to the Sessions Court here on July 4 to face three counts of CBT and one count of abuse of power in connection with SRC International Sdn Bhd’s funds totalling RM42 million.
The Kuala Lumpur Court Complex was packed with local and international media as they did not want to miss out on capturing photos of Najib and details of the case.
On Aug 8, he was charged again in the Sessions Court with three counts of money laundering involving the same amount of the same funds.
High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali has fixed 33 days, from Feb 12 to 28 and March 4 to 29, for the trial of Najib’s seven charges involving SRC International’s funds.
Despite attempts by Najib’s defence team led by lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to have the trial adjourned pending an appeal on the withdrawal of the certificate of transfer (to the High Court) by Najib, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, on Thursday, informed the judge that the prosecution was ready to commence the prosecution’s case tomorrow.
However, whether the trial will proceed would depend on Najib’s appeal to stay the trial.
Najib sought to stay the trial relating to his seven charges pending the outcome of the appellate court’s decision on his appeal relating to the withdrawal of the certificate of transfer by the public prosecutor.
Nazlan, on Thursday, allowed an application by Thomas to withdraw the certificate to transfer the seven charges against Najib from the Sessions Court to the High Court.
Thomas informed the court that the prosecution made the move due to the Federal Court’s decisions in the Semenyih Jaya (2017) and M. Indira Gandhi (2018) cases, which raised a doubt in respect of the exercise of the powers by the public prosecutor to transfer a case from the Sessions Court to the High Court.
“I will withdraw the certificate I issued to avoid any possible argument that the transfer is a nullity,” Thomas said.
Najib subsequently filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal on Thursday in a bid to set aside the High Court ruling granting the public prosecutor’s request to withdraw the certificate of transfer.
However, it is learnt that the prosecution will today apply to transfer the three additional charges of money laundering faced by Najib on Friday, from the Sessions Court to the High Court.
“We will ask for the three additional charges to be jointly tried with the other three counts of money laundering, which were brought earlier in court on Aug 8, as they involve the same funds (of SRC International),” sources said.
On Friday, Najib pleaded not guilty to three counts of money laundering involving RM27 million of SRC International’s funds.
On Jan 28, Najib was slapped with the same charges in the High Court but on Thursday, Thomas withdrew the charges and asked for the accused to be given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.
Najib was then recharged with the same charges in the Sessions Court on Friday.
The prosecution brought the additional charges against Najib in the High Court under Section 91 of Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLATFPUAA) 2001.
The section, among others, means that an additional charge against an accused can be brought at any court (either High Court or Sessions Court).
The prosecution withdrew the three additional charges and re-charged Najib in the Sessions Court based on procedural grounds.
The money laundering case originated from the Sessions Court and the prosecution should have mentioned the case at the Sessions Court before transferring it to the High Court.
However, under Section 91 of AMLATFPUAA, the prosecution can bring an additional charge against an accused in the High Court.
The prosecution has submitted more than 3,000 pages of documents, including minutes of meetings of SRC International, witness documents and other related documents, to the defence team in the course of the proceedings.
The prosecution will call 50 witnesses to testify during the trial.
As the case originated from the Sessions Court, the prosecution had applied to transfer the case to a higher court as the High Court has wider jurisdiction and if the case begins at the High Court, appeals could be heard until the Federal Court, and if there is any complex legal issue, it will be resolved at the Federal Court.
Senior lawyer Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah was appointed as senior deputy public prosecutor by the Attorney-General’s Chambers to lead the prosecution team in Najib’s SRC International cases and prominent criminal lawyer Datuk V. Sithambaram was appointed to assist the team.
DPP Datuk Ishak Mohd Yusoff, Budiman Lutfi Mohamed and Muhammad Izzat Fauzan are in the team.
Shafee, who was appointed as lead prosecutor in the appeal of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy II case in 2013, is leading the defence team and is being assisted by a team of lawyers, which includes Harvinderjit Singh and Muhammad Farhan Shafee.
Najib’s graft trial may be postponed
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.