12 Feb, KUALA LUMPUR – A Malaysian court on Monday postponed the first trial of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is facing multiple charges of corruption involving state development fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The Kuala Lumpur high court was scheduled to start hearings Tuesday on the seven counts of criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering that Najib is facing in connection of 42 million ringgit (10.5 million U.S. dollars) from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB, allegedly transferred into his personal account.
But the court of appeal on Monday unanimously allowed the application by Najib’s lawyers to postpone the hearings after the prosecution withdrew three charges and refiled them after attempting to transfer the case from the sessions court to the high court.
The three-member panel ruled that continuing with the trial at this stage meant the prosecution ran the risk of the trial becoming inconsequential and said the application by Najib’s defense team had merit.
Earlier, Malaysian Attorney-General Tommy Thomas argued that the application by the defense should be thrown out as the case is of public interest and has drawn local and international attention.
Following the ruling by the court of appeal, Najib’s lead counsel Shafee Abdullah told Xinhua that the decision proved that his defense was sound and not merely a delaying tactic.
“The court said although the case attracts attention, justice must be done to allow the appeal to decide on serious jurisdictional matters which if decided in favor of Najib, would render the trial to be a nullity and therefore would be nugatory (irrelevant),” he said.
State news agency Bernama reported earlier that the prosecutors had prepared nine witnesses for the trial, including government officials, who were ready to testify on Tuesday.
Over 3,000 pages of documents have been submitted by the prosecution, with 50 witnesses expected to be called up during the entire trial.
The charges came in the wake of Najib’s ruling coalition losing power for the first time during the general elections in May last year.
Since then, Najib has been slapped with a total of 42 charges including corruption and money laundering. Prosecutors also charged the former PM for alternating official report on 1MDB, which was set up by Najib in 2009 but later mired in debt as its funds were allegedly misappropriated.
Najib has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Enditem