KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — Prosecutors today vigorously objected to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s bid to indefinitely postpone his first-ever corruption trial which is scheduled to start next month.
The prosecution told the High Court that Najib’s lawyers’ January 15 application to indefinitely postpone the trial involving RM42 million funds of former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) unit SRC International Sdn Bhd was “frivolous and would cause an unreasonable delay to the scheduled trial”.
“In view of the above, we wish to reiterate our objections to the Defence’s application to postpone the trial and to stress that the Defence had well over 7 months (from as early as 4 July 2018) to prepare their Defence, and such an attempt to indefinitely postpone the trial would, in view of the public interest and importance of this trial, must be rejected by this Honourable Court,” the Attorney General’s Chamber’s head of prosecution division Manoj Kurup wrote in a letter today.
Manoj’s letter was directed to the High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali who will be hearing Najib’s case.
Najib was charged on July 4, 2018 with one count of abuse of power and three counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to the SRC funds, and was again charged on August 8 with three counts of money-laundering over the same sum.
Datuk Mohd Sofian Abd Razak was the initial judge presiding over Najib’s case, but he was replaced on August 1 with Mohd Nazlan following administrative transfers.
The High Court had fixed February 12 until March 29 as the trial dates.
Najib’s lawyers had made several High Court applications, including for a gag order on the case’s merits, to challenge senior private lawyer Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah’s appointment as the lead prosecutor in Najib’s case, and for discovery of documents.
These three matters have been brought on appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Manoj today noted Najib’s lawyers’ January 15 letter to the High Court to seek for the indefinite trial postponement until the Court of Appeal decides on the two appeals involving the document discovery bid and Sulaiman’s appointment.
Manoj noted that Najib’s lawyers had said the postponement was necessary for the defence’s “efforts in mounting an effective defence”.
But Manoj pointed out that the previous High Court judge had on July 4 already indicated February and March 2019 as possible available dates for Najib’s trial, and that the AGC had also on July 5 said it would apply on August 8 for trial to start in November 2018.
Manoj said the High Court had on August 8 proposed that Najib’s trial start in November 2018, having taken into account the direction under Section 172B(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code which stated that trial shall start no later than 90 days from the date an accused is charged.
Manoj said the High Court’s November trial suggestion was met with “strong objections” by Najib’s lawyer, who informed the court that he had “already reserved February and March 2019 for the trial” and that October and November 2018 were no longer convenient for the defence team as he had already scheduled other matters for the latter two months.
Manoj noted that the High Court had subsequently on August 10 fixed February 12 as the start of the trial “with the agreement” of both prosecution and defence.
Najib is facing another 32 criminal charges involving three other matters.