High-profile legal dramas in 2022

Some are now serving their sentences or being acquitted, while others remain at various stages before the courts 


IT HAS been a year filled with drama for Malaysia, from political turmoil to natural disasters. 

Nevertheless, 2022 has not let high-profile court cases take the back seat, as some of them are of great public interest involving very important people. 

The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recaps a few of the major ones, some of which are now serving their sentences or being acquitted, while others remain at various stages before the courts. 

Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak

The most notorious this year was former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s SRC International Sdn Bhd case, which took four long years. 

Malaysians followed the developments closely including Najib’s various health conditions throughout the case, as well as online proceedings when the world was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

On July 4, 2018, and Aug 8, 2018, the Sessions Court charged Najib with seven offences over the misappropriation of RM42 million from SRC International. 

The trial began on April 3, 2019, at the Kuala Lumpur High Court and he was found guilty of all charges on July 28, 2020. 

Najib was sentenced to a RM210 million fine and 12 years in prison. He appealed but ultimately failed when the Federal Court on Aug 23, 

2022, upheld the conviction. Among the requests that were turned away included for Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat to withdraw from hearing his final appeal and for the defendant’s 

submissions to be postponed. Najib is currently serving a 12-year jail sentence at the Kajang Prison but has sought a royal pardon and a review of the Federal Court’s decision.

He is also facing four other cases relating to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) corruption issue. This involves the International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) and RM27 million money laundering cases which have yet to start, and the main 1MDB and audit tampering trials which are currently being heard before the High Court. 

Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor

On Nov 15, 2018, Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor was charged in the Sessions Court with two counts of soliciting RM187.5 million and accepting bribes amounting to RM1.5 million from former Jepak Holdings MD Saidi Abang Samsudin in connection with a hybrid solar project in 369 rural schools in Sarawak. 

On April 10, 2019, she was again charged in the Sessions Court with accepting a bribe of RM5 million from the same person involving the same project. 

On Feb 18, 2021, the High Court ordered her to enter defence, of which the High Court subsequently found her guilty of all three charges and was given 10 years imprisonment and a record fine of RM970 million as punishment on Sept 1, 2022. 

Rosmah is currently appealing her conviction and sentence. 

On the other hand, Rosmah also is facing 12 money laundering charges for allegedly depositing RM7 million said to be derived from unlawful activities and five counts of failure to declare her income to the Inland Revenue Board (IRB). 

The hearing has yet to begin as she is appealing against two of the High Court’s decisions in dismissing her application to remove the current trial judge from presiding over the case. 

Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

Umno President Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was charged in June 2019 with 33 counts of accepting bribes totalling S$13.56 million from Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd as an inducement for himself as a civil servant and the then-home minister to extend the company’s contract to operate One Stop Centres and an integrated visa system. 

He was accused of committing the offences between October 2014 and March 2018. 

On Sept 23, 2022, the High Court acquitted the Bagan Datuk MP from all 40 charges after finding that the prosecution failed to show prima facie. 

Trial judge Datuk Mohd Yazid Mustafa ruled that the prosecution’s case lacked the main requirements of the charges under Section 165 of the Penal Code and Section 16(a)(B) of the MACC Act levelled against the accused. The prosecution is currently appealing Ahmad Zahid’s acquittal. 

He was also charged at the Sessions Court with 10 criminal breach of trust (CBT) offences, eight corruption and 27 money laundering charges involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi, his family-run charity foundation on Oct 19, 2018. 

He was charged a second and third time for two CBT offences involving the foundation on Dec 14, 2018, and Feb 20, 2019, respectively. His trial officially started on Nov 18, 2019, at the High Court. 

On Jan 24, 2022, the High Court ordered him to enter his defence on all 47 charges and the case is now ongoing. 

However, the trial for misappropriated Yayasan Akalbudi funds will resume in January 2023 after High Court Judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah vacated the remaining four days of Ahmad Zahid’s trial this month pending his appeal at the Court of Appeal (CoA). 

On Sept 23, the Sessions Court granted Abdul Azeez a DNAA under Section 254 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code

Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim

Former Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim was charged with three counts of accepting bribes amounting to RM5.2 million in connection with road projects in Perak and Kedah and 10 counts of money laundering involving a total of RM13.9 million. 

He appealed for the charges to be struck out, but only succeeded in doing so for four of the money laundering charges on Sept 5, 2022. 

On Sept 23, the Sessions Court granted him a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) under Section 254 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code. 

He however was freed on Dec 9, 2022, after High Court judicial commissioner Datuk Azahar Abdul Hamid allowed Abdul Azeez’s notice of motion to get a full acquittal against his nine charges, comprising three for corruption and six for money laundering. 

Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin and Datin Seri Zizie Izette Abdul Samad

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin and his spouse, Datin Seri Zizie Izette Abdul Samad, were charged on May 3, 2019, with three counts of accepting bribes totalling RM2.8 million. 

It was an inducement to obtain Felcra Bhd’s approval to invest RM150 million in Public Mutual unit trusts while Zizie Izette was charged with abetting him. 

The trial started on Jan 2, 2020, and they were ordered to enter their defences on Sept 2, 2022. 

They failed in their bid to challenge the Sessions’ Court decision for the duo to enter defence in a graft trial. 

Citizenship for Children of Malaysian Mothers

Another issue of national interest was that of the children of Malaysian mothers, who were born outside the country. 

They came together with a human rights group to push for a change in the discriminatory citizenship law that has been very costly to their families. 

Under the Federal Constitution, Malaysian women cannot pass nationality to their foreign spouses, nor can they automatically pass nationality to their children born abroad. 

These requests are nearly never granted and only less than 2.5% or 117 of the 4,870 applications made by Malaysian women between 2013 and February 2022 were approved. 

Current Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said he will deliberate and act on the issue. 

“We will scrutinise all aspects of it including the constitution, existing laws and humanity,” Saifuddin said. 

Previously, the Court of Appeal allowed the government’s request to overturn an important decision that said children born abroad to Malaysian women with foreign spouses are entitled to Malaysian citizenship. 

The High Court previously ruled that the government must provide citizenship to such children. 

Before this momentous judgement last year, overseas children born to Malaysian fathers could petition for Malaysian citizenship, but not for Malaysian mothers. 

Littoral Combat Ships 

The littoral combat ships (LCS) scandal began on Nov 27, 2021, when Boustead Heavy Industries Corp Bhd (BHIC) lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on possible irregularities in the RM9 billion project, which its associate Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd (BNS) is undertaking. 

The scandal was brought back up by PKR deputy president Rafizi Ramli before the 15th General Election and it has since made headlines with calls for accountability and answers for the project’s failure. The contract was awarded to BNS in December 2011 and signed in July 2014 for BNS to build six ships with the help of French naval company DCNS beginning in 2015.

The boats are to be delivered in stages from April 2019 to 2023. Pakatan Harapan leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim demanded that former PM Najib and his then-Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid take responsibility as the project began under their watch but both blamed PH for the project delays.

Rafizi then said he will reveal the identity of a politician involved in misappropriating funds meant for the LCS project. 

He also said the project included two subcontractors — Contraves Advanced Devices Sdn Bhd (CAD) and Contraves Electrodynamics Sdn Bhd (CED) — when BNS could have handled the project on its own. 

On Aug 11, MACC completed and handed in its investigation papers on individuals linked to the LCS project to the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC). 

MACC recommended what charges to file against these individuals. 

According to the New Straits Times on Aug 16, a former BNS senior officer was charged at the Sessions Court for breach of trust involving the procurement of the combat ships. 

The Special Investigation Committee on Public Governance, Procurement, and Finance (JKSTUPKK) report on the contentious project found that Ahmad Zahid, the defence minister at the time, was involved in the procurement process. 

He denied this and said it was unfair to blame him for the LCS procurement fiasco as the project was awarded after his time in the ministry ended in 2013. 

The report included evidence in the form of a letter sent by BNS on July 8, 2010, to Ahmad Zahid asking for a letter of intent on the LCS project as it carried his handwriting that said: “sila laksanakan” (please get this done) as well his signature and stamp as the defence minister. 

On Dec 5, 2022, new Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan pledged to continue the effort of making the Defence White Paper the guidelines for the coun-“The army has received approval from the Parliament regarding the National Defence White Paper and has taken strategic steps to empower the Armed Forces in all three services — land, sea, and air,” he said. 

On Dec 10, Mohamad insisted the LCS project will continue as it is an important strategic asset for the country.

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition