KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's trial over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal is set to resume on May 19, instead of May 18 as originally scheduled due to a clash with Parliament's one-day sitting on that day.
Najib's lawyer Muhammad Farhan Muhammad Shafee confirmed that the trial date has been rescheduled from May 18 to May 19, further confirming that the change in trial date was upon the request of the defence team.
"Yes, the trial is set to start on the 19th instead because of the Parliament sitting on the 18th which he is constitutionally required to attend," he told Malay Mail when contacted, adding that trial will start in the afternoon on May 19.
When contacted, Deputy Public Prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib confirmed that the trial will resume on May 19.
“Yes, the defence did write in to court and asked for 18th to be vacated because Datuk Seri Najib will have to attend Parliament sitting,” he said, adding that the court granted the defence’s application.
He also confirmed that the trial dates previously fixed for the 1MDB case remained unchanged for now. Trial dates for the 1MDB case were previously also fixed for May 20 to May 22, as well as the entire months of June to October.
Najib, who is a former Umno president and former Barisan Nasional chairman, is also the Pekan MP and the chairman of the BN advisory board.
Najib’s 1MDB case will be heard before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah, with the case involving 25 charges relating to over RM2 billion of 1MDB funds.
When the 1MDB trial resumes, Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is expected to resume cross-examining the ninth prosecution witness and former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi.
Najib's 1MDB trial is expected to be one of the first few high-profile criminal cases to resume trial, after they were disrupted by the movement control order (MCO) put into place in Malaysia since March 18 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Najib’s 1MDB trial was set to resume on March 19, but it was postponed several times after that as the courts were closed in line with the MCO.
Najib’s 1MDB trial dates had then been rescheduled from dates set such as April 1, April 15, April 29, and May 13 which was then further rescheduled to May 18, amid several extensions of the government order for movement restrictions in the country.
Malaysia is currently under the conditional movement control order (CMCO) since May 4 where regulations are more relaxed and many businesses have been allowed to reopen, with the courts also expected to resume hearing cases during the CMCO period that was on May 10 extended to go on until June 9.
On May 3, the judiciary had notified the public of Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat's instruction for open court hearings to resume in stages throughout the country from May 13 onwards. (At that time, the CMCO was due to end on May 12).
Yesterday, the Chief Registrar of the Federal Court of Malaysia announced strict health and safety standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines to curb the spread of Covid-19, including making it compulsory for the public to wear a face mask within the court premises, only allowing entry for those with body temperatures of 38 degree Celsius and below, and requiring all visitors to fill in a Court Visitor Form to enable tracing.
Among other safety measures are the allowing of only one family member to enter when it comes to criminal cases, while witnesses or those part of a hearing will only be allowed into court premises 30 minutes before their hearing, and requiring everyone to sit in designated spots marked on their seats in open court to maintain social distancing.
As for Najib’s other trial involving seven charges over former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd’s RM42 million funds, Muhammad Farhan confirmed that the trial dates remain scheduled for June 1 to June 3.
The SRC trial is at its tail end, with both prosecution and Najib’s lawyers expected to present oral submissions on June 1 to June 3, which is expected to be followed by High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali setting a date for a verdict to be delivered.
Najib currently has five trials, some of which have started and are ongoing including the 1MDB trial, SRC trial, as well as a trial over the alleged tampering of the Auditor-General’s final audit report on 1MDB.
Ahmad Akram, who is also on the prosecution team, today also confirmed that the High Court has fixed new trial dates for Najib’s joint trial with former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy over the alleged 1MDB audit report tampering.
Ahmad Akram said the prosecution was yesterday notified by the High Court that the audit report trial will resume on June 15 to 18, June 29 to 30, July 1 to 3, July 27 to 30.
This trial will be heard before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan.