Umno lawyer Hafarizam claims trial to money-laundering over RM15m Najib cheques

Umno lawyer Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun is pictured leaving the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex February 21, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Umno lawyer Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun is pictured leaving the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex February 21, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 — Umno legal adviser Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun was today charged with money-laundering for allegedly depositing RM15 million in illegal funds via three cheques from Datuk Seri Najib Razak into his law firm's client account.

Under the first charge, Hafarizam was accused of engaging directly in two transactions that involved proceeds from illegal activity, by causing RM11.5 million through two AmIslamic Bank Berhad cheques belonging to Najib to his law firm Hafarizam Wan & Aisha Mubarak’s client account in CIMB Bank Berhad.

He was alleged to have done so between April 16 and November 4, 2014.

Under the second charge, Hafarizam was similarly accused of having on February 12, 2015 caused proceeds of unlawful activity amounting to RM3.5 million to be deposited into the law firm’s same client account via an AmIslamic Bank Berhad cheque belonging to Najib. 

A client account is a bank account usually used by law firms to hold clients’ money in trust and kept separate from its own funds.

Hafarizam, dressed in a black suit, pleaded not guilty to the two charges under Section 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

The two charges are punishable under Section 4(1) of the same Act with the penalty of a maximum 15-year jail term, and a fine of RM5 million or not less than five times the sum of the proceeds of unlawful activity, whichever is higher.

Sessions Court Judge Azman Ahmad allowed bail at RM500,000 with one surety and ordered Hafarizam to surrender his passport to the court.

Deputy public prosecutor Mohamad Mustafa P. Kunyalam told the court that both the prosecution and defence had agreed to the bail amount and additional condition regarding the passport, while Hafarizam’s lawyer Hasnal Rezua Merican confirmed that the defence agreed to the bail terms.

Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib today informed the court that Najib’s former media adviser Paul Geoffrey Stadlen’s money-laundering case had been registered yesterday at the Magistrate’s Court, and that steps to track him down had started with an arrest warrant issued yesterday and forwarded to the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).

Ahmad Akram said the prosecution would apply to have both Stadlen’s and Hafarizam’s money-laundering cases heard together if Stadlen is physically brought before Malaysian courts.

Stadlen’s case involves two counts of money-laundering charges for ordering payments amounting to a total of over RM14.25 million via 43 transactions from Hafarizam’s law firm’s client account to several individuals and companies from June 2014 to August 2015.

Outside the courtroom, Hafarizam told reporters that he is still a lawyer acting for Najib in two civil court cases.

“I’m still acting for him on two matters,” he said, referring to DAP MP Tony Pua’s lawsuit against Najib and the government for misfeasance in public office over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal and also regarding an injunction in a defamation case.

Hafarizam today said he will be leaving it to his team of lawyers to defend him against his money-laundering charges, adding: “I will take this opportunity to clear my name in due course.”

When asked if he felt it was unfair as he was the second lawyer acting for Najib after Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to be charged in court, Hafarizam said: “I can’t comment because the matter is now in court and it will be sub judice to ccomment.”

Hafarizam’s case will come up for mention on March 25.

Hafarizam was reportedly arrested yesterday afternoon by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) when he went to have his statement recorded.

Hafarizam had represented Najib in multiple court cases, while the latter was prime minister and Umno president and even after he no longer held the two positions.

Najib is facing 42 charges with many linked to the 1MDB scandal, ranging from money-laundering to criminal breach of trust and also power abuse under an anti-corruption law.