Najib's fifth trial to start June 2020, but his lawyer says will file for strikeout

Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex, May 17, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex, May 17, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 ― The High Court today set Datuk Seri Najib Razak's fifth criminal case for trial in June next year.

In an immediate response, the ex-prime minister’s lawyer said that Najib will seek to have all three money-laundering charges over RM27 million struck out.

Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan today fixed the trial dates for the RM27 million case spanning four weeks in June 2020.

The trial dates which excludes Fridays are June 2 to June 4, June 9 to June 11, June 15 to June 18, June 23 to June 25.

Earlier, the prosecution had informed Mohamed Zaini that it would need about at least 14 days for trial, but the judge decided to err on the side of caution and allocate additional days.

“I’d rather be careful about it rather than be surprised,” he said, having noted that lawyers may take longer than they tell the judge to expect when addressing the court during trial.

Before the judge fixed the June 2020 dates, both the prosecution and defence had indicated that trial dates beyond April 2020 would be suitable.

“It’s a good idea to have beyond (April). April would have given some serious injury, we need serious injury time,” Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said, appearing to allude a football phrase.

The judge also took into account Shafee’s request for Fridays to be excluded from being used for trial to allow time for lawyers to do other work. The prosecution did not object to the suggestion.

Najib already has trial dates fixed for his four other criminal cases, stretching from May 28 this year to April 30 next year.

He has to be personally present during each of the trials, so the cases cannot be heard on the same days.

Plans to strike out

Najib's lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah today however told the judge that the three money-laundering charges in this RM27 million case do not have predicate offences, or other charges where the money-laundering charges can arise from or are built on.

“As Yang Arif can see, it's standing on its own, we will be making an application to strike out the three charges,” he said.

Shafee noted that these three charges involving the RM27 million sum were initially “riding on” the seven charges in a RM42 million case before another judge, but said the three charges were “kicked out” from that case due to technical grounds.

“Now it is standing on its own, in fact hanging without a rope,” Shafee said of the three charges in the RM27 million case.

Deputy public prosecutor Budiman Lutfi Mohamed later said the prosecution would address the striking out bid after it had been filed.

“It is the view of the prosecution that the three AMLA charges are valid and proper and we will address the challenge when it is properly filed,” he told the court, referring to the acronym commonly used by lawyers to refer to a local anti-money laundering law.

The court fixed June 21 for the next case management of the RM27 million case.

Later when met outside the courtroom, Shafee explained that all money-laundering cases — typically involving money originating from illegal activity — must be linked to a criminal act that has to be proven first.

“All AMLA cases must have predicate offences, you can’t confiscate because you have to prove the confiscation material is related to a criminal act, therefore the proceeds is illegal.

“So here, we don’t have any predicate offences, it’s just AMLA. Whereas the seven, they have got the predicate offences, so they have to prove the predicate offences then AMLA. You can’t just have this without any nexus to the predicate offences,” he told reporters.

The seven charges in the SRC International Sdn Bhd’s RM42 million case involves one count of abuse of position, three counts of criminal breach of trust and three counts of money-laundering — with the former two considered the predicate offences out of which the alleged money-laundering arose from.

As for when the defence plans to file the application to strike out the three money-laundering charges in the RM27 million case, Shafee said they plan to first see the documents that the prosecution will be relying on in the trial.

“We have to get the Section 51A documents first. We want to see how they are going to proceed. We will file (the striking-out application), but we have to time it so we see the documents first,” he told reporters, referring to trial-related documents that the prosecution has to provide to the defence team under Section 51A of the Criminal Procedure Code.