Najib is not above the law as trial starts

Najib pleads his innocence, claiming the slew of charges are politically motivated

by MARK RAO & RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

DATUK Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s trial began yesterday as the prosecutors seek to prove that the former prime minister (PM) had abused his “near absolute power” as the leader of the nation for personal gratification.

The 66-year-old former PM — who was in the accused dock on the 10th anniversary of his appointment as the nation’s sixth PM — faces seven charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power related to SRC International Sdn Bhd.

The eldest son of the country’s second PM is already facing a slew of other changes related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), a development fund which is at the centre of a multibillion ringgit larceny scandal.

The prosecution has alleged that RM42 million was transferred from SRC to the disgraced former PM’s personal account. Najib was the advisor emeritus of SRC.

Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas in his opening speech said the former PM had occupied the most powerful office in the land and “wielded near absolute power”.

“The operation of Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution that ‘all persons are equal before the law’ is amply demonstrated by this trial.

“A former PM is charged under due process in the ordinary court of the land, like any other accused. The accused is not above the law and his prosecution and this trial should serve as precedents for all future holders of this august office,” said Thomas.

He said the prosecution will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Najib is guilty of the seven charges.

Thomas said Najib was the PM and finance minister at the time the offences were committed and he had “maximum political power and control of the nation’s purse”.

“In holding the office of the PM, and thus the nation’s highest elected public officer and head of government, the highest trust was reposed by our people in the accused.

“In such circumstances, the law demands the highest standards of care in the discharge by the accused of his duties and obligations as trustee of public offices,” he said.

Thomas said the accused had abused his power as 1MDB chair and SRC advisor emeritus by misappropriating the funds for his personal gain.

The country’s lead prosecutor also said the prosecution will provide the evidence that Najib had issued personal checks worth RM10.78 million, paying off a US$130,625 (RM532,950) spending receipt in Hawaii, house renovations and funding Barisan Nasional’s (BN) component parties.

“(We intend to establish that) the accused had issued a total of 15 personal cheques from his AmPrivate Banking account totalling an approximate sum of RM10.78 million,” Thomas said.

He added that the cheques were issued for, among others, payment of renovation works for Najib’s private residences and BN component political parties. The former includes the Pekan MP’s homes at Jalan Langgak Duta, Kuala Lumpur (KL), and Pekan, Pahang.

“Evidence will also establish that in December 2014, the accused’s credit card was charged US$130,625 for expenses made at Chanel, an exclusive fashion store in Honolulu,” Thomas said.

Najib — who was ousted after BN’s shocking defeat in the May 2018 general election — pleaded his innocence, claiming the slew of charges were politically motivated. The former PM arrived at the KL Courts Complex before 2pm and was greeted by his supporters. His wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor was not present.

Meanwhile, presiding Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali ruled that he would hear the defence’s application that was submitted hours before the trial started to amend the seven charges against Najib at a later date.

Thomas had decried the motion as another “backdoor attempt” to stop the trial from starting. Mohd Nazlan fixed April 15 to May 10 for the trial to continue.