Historic Najib trial starts now, High Court judge rules

Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex April 3, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex April 3, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — The long-awaited trial of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak officially starts today.

High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali ordered the trial to begin immediately even as Najib’s 12-man defence team led by Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah flashed a last-ditch attempt to delay its start by filing an application to challenge the charges only this morning.

“The trial commences now,” the judge said, ending widespread speculation that it may be postponed at the very last minute.

As proceedings began earlier this afternoon, Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas told the court that the defence had the temerity to fill an application to challenge the charges only this morning, and that the entire trial process was being challenged.

“There can be no other inference drawn from this course of conduct, which is it is intended to delay the trial yet again and should not be countenanced by the court,” he said.

“This is another backdoor attempt to stop the trial from starting,” he later added, having described the application as an eleventh-hour attempt to postpone the case.

Former Solicitor-General II Datuk Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden was among one of four lawyers for Najib who stood up to argue that the High Court should first hear the application to clean up the allegedly defective charges before allowing the trial to start.

“At this juncture, all of us, prosecutor and defence and more so the court, have to ensure that before the case starts, the charges are properly framed,” he told the court.

But High Court judge Mohd Nazlan finally noted that he will fix another date to hear Najib’s application to challenge the charges, pointing out that the application was only filed this morning on the day that trial was scheduled in relation to charges filed last July.

“In my view, there is no impediment for this application to be heard after trial commences,” he said when ruling for the trial to start.

Najib is here for his first-ever trial over RM42 million of funds belonging to 1MDB’s former unit SRC International Sdn Bhd. He faces a total of seven charges over the RM42 million.

Out of the seven charges slapped on him on July 4, 2018 and August 8, 2018, Najib is accused of committing three counts of criminal breach of trust over a total RM42 million of SRC International funds while entrusted with its control as the prime minister and finance minister then, and a separate charge under an anti-corruption law of abusing the same positions for self-gratification of the same RM42 million sum.

The first three counts under Section 409 of the Penal Code are over Najib allegedly committing criminal breach of trust involving sums of RM27 million, RM5 million and RM10 million while entrusted with the control of RM4 billion of SRC International’s funds in his capacity as the prime minister and finance minister.

Under the fourth count, Najib was charged under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 with abusing his position to commit bribery of RM42 million when he was involved in a government decision to provide government guarantee for the Retirement Fund Incorporated’s (KWAP) RM4 billion loan to SRC International.

The remaining three charges are for allegedly money-laundering the same total sum of RM42 million, where Najib is accused of receiving RM27 million, RM5 million and RM10 million in proceeds from unlawful activities in two of his AmIslamic Bank Berhad accounts between December 26, 2014, and February 10, 2015.

The money-laundering charges are under Section 4(1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLATFPUAA) 2001.