No change, appellate court rules Najib’s 1MDB trial to begin Aug 19

Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at Palace of Justice in Putrajaya August 5, 2019. — Pictures by Yusof Mat Isa
Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at Palace of Justice in Putrajaya August 5, 2019. — Pictures by Yusof Mat Isa

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PUTRAJAYA, August 5 — The Court of Appeal affirmed today the High Court’s decision to start Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption trial in precisely 14 more days, whether or not his trial in the SRC International case is still ongoing.

Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli who chaired the three-judge bench dismissed the appeal brought by both the prosecution and defence to delay the 1MDB trial, also known as the “Tanore” case.

In a unanimous decision, the appellate court judges said High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah had exercised his discretion to have the 1MDB case as scheduled.

“In the appeal before us, we are not persuaded by the argument.

“The learned judge has given his reasons why he refused to postpone the 1MDB case and the reasons were valid,” he said.

The other two Court of Appeal judges were Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Datuk Hasnah Mohammed Hashim.

Abdul Rahman in reading out the judgement said the prosecution cannot choose to adjourn a case nor utilise the court as a “mere repository”.

“Furthermore, the learned High Court judge has made it clear to the learned parties that he was willing to accommodate and continue with the on-going SRC trial.

“For these reasons, we are of the view that this is not fit and proper case for appellate intervention,” he said. 

Abdul Rahman said the appellate court could only step in if the High Court had applied the wrong principle of law or if there was a miscarriage of justice by the refusal to adjourn the 1MDB trial start date.

Attorney General Tommy Thomas is pictured at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya August 5, 2019.
Attorney General Tommy Thomas is pictured at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya August 5, 2019.

Earlier, Attorney General Tommy Thomas argued that the SRC International trial was the first indictment against Najib and should be allowed to conclude before other trials start.

He told the Court of Appeal that the SRC International may not be able to complete by August 15, based on its current rate of progress.

Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah seconded Thomas’s argument, saying the defence would be split and Najib’s right to a fair trial may be jeopardised if two trials were held simultaneously.

On July 18, Sequerah in dismissing the prosecution’s formal bid to postpone the trial, said in his judgment that he found insufficient grounds to justify delaying the hearings.

“The dates that have been set will still apply, but parties can appeal for each of the individual dates to be rescheduled if needed,” Sequerah was quoted saying.

Najib is currently being tried for seven money laundering and criminal breach of trust charges over RM42 million in SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.

The SRC International trial is scheduled to run until August 15.

Sequerah had previously set August 19 to 29; throughout September and October except for Fridays; and the first two weeks in November, for Najib’s 1MDB trial.

Najib’s affidavit filed by his lawyer in support of Thomas’s postponement bid said he as an accused and the defence team might be prejudiced if both SRC International and 1MDB trials proceeded simultaneously.

Deputy public prosecutor Muhammad Izzat Fauzan later told reporters outside courtroom that the Attorney General’s Chambers will file an appeal on today’s decision.

Similarly, Muhammad Shafee also told reporters that he has received instructions to appeal today’s decision at the Federal Court.

Najib’s SRC International hearing before High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali resumes this afternoon in Kuala Lumpur.

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