Najib’s RM4.3b money-laundering trial postponed to next Monday

Prosecutors and the defence team struggle to prepare their case for the 1MDB trial


THE highly anticipated Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial did not materialise yesterday as prosecutors and the defence team struggled to prepare their case and asked for postponement.

Prosecutors and Najib’s lawyers are trying to conclude SRC International Sdn Bhd’s trial, which has been going on for about five months, and prepare for the country’s largest money-laundering case in history.

The 1MDB trial, the world’s most anticipated court case related to the former prime minister (PM), has been postponed tentatively to next Monday.

Thousands of documents related to the trial were shared with the defence team yesterday, with both sides keen for a postponement due to the complexity of the case.

Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah fixed Thursday to gauge the progress of the SRC trial before making a decision on whether both sides are ready for the 1MDB trial on Aug 26.

Appointed deputy public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram made an application for the 1MDB trial to start on Sept 3, 2019, as prosecutors were still preparing about 12 statements related to key witnesses.

Prosecutors who intend to prove Najib is guilty on charges related to 1MDB provided additional 15 volumes of documents related to the case. Under the rules, a trial can only begin at least 14 days after all related documents are handed over to the defence team.

Lead defence counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah agreed with the prosecution’s proposal and said his team also required time to study the documents. They opted not to waive the 14-day requirement.

“Apart from the statutory rights, the witness statements are very substantive, with some of them going into 200 pages. We have managed to read some, but it is not just about reading.

“We have to determine what references the witnesses seem to make from the voluminous documents. So, as such, there has not been sensible preparation for us to intelligently follow the witness statements,” Muhammad Shafee said at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday.

The judge is keen to start the 1MDB trial on Monday with oral testimony from witnesses, in the event that the written statements would not be ready on time. Regardless, Sequerah said he is prepared to vacate the day for another adjournment.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Shafee anticipated that the defence would take 11⁄2 days to cross-examine the prosecution’s final witness related to the SRC trial.

The trial is expected to be concluded this week with the 57th prosecution witness, Rosli Hussain, who is the investigating officer of the SRC case and a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission senior assistant commissioner.

Muhammad Shafee told the media that the defence case may be affected if the trials are allowed to run concurrently.

“You will only appreciate this if you are an accused person. When it hits you in the nose, then you will think, ‘my God, this is ridiculous’,” he said.

He added that some of the witnesses in the 1MDB trial could be the same witnesses in the SRC trial, but the scope of the 1MDB case would be bigger as it involves international transactions.

Najib faces 25 charges over billions allegedly credited into his bank accounts, money transfers to associates and power misuse in the country’s biggest money-laundering trial in history.

The former PM was charged with 21 counts of money laundering involving RM4.3 billion and four counts of corruption involving RM2.3 billion of 1MDB funds in September last year.

The Pekan MP was accused of receiving a total of RM2.08 billion deposited to his account in nine tranches — RM155 million, RM155 million, RM155 million, RM188 million, RM231 million, RM138 million, RM152 million, RM304 million and RM602 million respectively.

The monies were transferred from Tanore Finance Corp’s account at Falcon Private Bank Ltd’s Singapore branch.

Najib also faces charges for five transfers — RM656 million, RM326.8 million, RM327.3 million, RM181.8 million and RM545.8 million — to Tanore.

He claimed that the money deposited from Tanore and other accounts, amounting to US$800 million (RM3.31 billion), was linked to a foreign prince.

The eldest son of the country’s second PM is already facing seven charges on criminal breach of trust, money laundering and power abuse in the SRC trial involving RM42 million of the company’s funds.