As SRC trial ends, 1MDB trial finally begins... next week

Kenneth Tee
Datuk Seri Najib Razak leaves the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex August 13, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 23 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s RM42 million SRC International Sdn Bhd corruption trial will finally conclude on August 27 to make way for his highly-anticipated corruption trial over the RM2.3 billion funds from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

During case management at the High Court today, judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah fixed August 28 to begin Najib’s 1MDB trial after the immediate conclusion of the SRC International trial on Tuesday.

“Hearing is thus fixed Wednesday morning at 9.30am,” Sequerah, who is also the presiding judge in the trial, said.

Ad hoc prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram earlier informed the court that the prosecution was prepared to call six formal witnesses to testify without their witness statements on August 28.

Sri Ram had initially suggested that the hearing begin next Tuesday afternoon as a judicial review application hearing on whether he should be disqualified as the lead prosecutor in the 1MDB case will be taking place at the Court of Appeal on August 26.

However, ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram, who is leading the prosecution team in Najib’s SRC International trial, requested additional time as the prosecution needs more time to conclude the re-examination of the last witness.

Sithambaram said the defence required another hour and a half to complete its cross-examination, while the prosecution would need another two hours to conduct the subsequent re-examination.

Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah also seconded Sithambaram, adding that it would be ideal for the trial to begin on September 3 or at the latest, by the end of next week to allow sufficient time for the defence to prepare its case.

He said the prosecution had served two voluminous documents to the defence yesterday, adding that the August 28 date would impair the defence’s preparations.

“We urge you to use the discretion and be sympathetic to us so that we can prepare our 1MDB case,” he said.

However, Sequerah dismissed Shafee’s application to begin the trial on September 3 and maintained the August 28 start date instead.

The 1MDB trial has also been coined the Tanore case, after the company Tanore Finance Corporation which has been named as the firm that passed allegedly illegal funds to Najib.

In the 1MDB trial, Najib is facing a total of 25 charges, namely four counts of abusing his position for his own financial benefit totalling almost RM2.3 billion and the resulting 21 counts of money-laundering.

Around 60 prosecution witnesses have been subpoenaed and are expected to take the stand in Najib’s 1MDB trial, several of whom have already appeared in the SRC International trial.

The High Court previously set August 19 to 29, the entirety of September and October except for Fridays, and the first two weeks of November to hear Najib’s 1MDB trial pending the conclusion of his ongoing SRC International corruption trial before a different High Court judge, Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.

Later, Mohd Nazlan reminded both defence and prosecution teams that proceedings for the SRC International trial must be concluded by morning, as he had other matters to attend to later that same day.

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

The 57th and final prosecution witness, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Senior Assistant Commissioner Rosli Hussain, is currently on the stand in the SRC International trial.

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