Najib’s 1MDB trial and SRC appeal hearing deferred as key lawyer under Covid-19 quarantine

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Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Court of Appeal, Putrajaya April 27, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Court of Appeal, Putrajaya April 27, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s trial at the High Court over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) involving over RM2 billion and the Court of Appeal hearing for his SRC International Sdn Bhd case involving RM42 million has been deferred, as one of his key lawyers is under quarantine for Covid-19.

Muhammad Farhan Muhammad Shafee, one of Najib’s lawyers, confirmed that both cases will not be heard this week.

“Both the SRC appeal and the 1MDB trial had to be vacated this week because a key member of our team has to undergo testing and quarantine due to a significant close contact to a number of confirmed Covid-19 patients.

“Considering the rest of the team have been working closely with him, the necessary precautions need to be taken,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

Malay Mail understands that the lawyer who is a close contact is under mandatory quarantine, while some of Najib’s defence team who were working closely with him are also voluntarily self-quarantining.

The name of the lawyer who is a close contact is being withheld for privacy purposes.

When contacted, deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib — who is in the 1MDB prosecution team — confirmed that the 1MDB trial will not be proceeding this week.

Ahmad Akram confirmed to Malay Mail that the reason for this was due to a lawyer on Najib’s team having to quarantine as a close contact and as other members of the defence team were also under quarantine.

Ahmad Akram confirmed that Najib’s 1MDB trial is still set to resume on the next scheduled date of May 17.

Najib’s 1MDB trial was initially scheduled to resume today (May 3) and tomorrow (May 4) before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah, but it will not proceed now.

The High Court in Kuala Lumpur had previously scheduled additional trial dates stretching from 1MDB from May to December this year, including trial dates from May 17 to 20 and May 24 to 27.

The other previously scheduled trial dates this year for the 1MDB case are June 1 to 3, 8 to 10, 21 to 24, 28 to 30, and July 5 to 8, August 17 to 19, 23 to 24, September 6 to 9, 13 to 15, 20 to 23, October 4 to 7, 11 to 14, 18 to 21, November 8 to 11, 15 to 18, 22 to 25, December 6 to 9, 13 to 16.

When the 1MDB trial resumes, Najib’s lawyers are expected to continue cross-examining the 10th prosecution witness Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman.

Since Najib’s 1MDB trial began on August 28, 2019, events linked to the Covid-19 pandemic including the movement control order (MCO) in 2020 had caused disruption to the trial, apart from Najib having to attend his other trials due to the need to ensure a fair trial.

The 1MDB trial could not proceed on March 12, 2020 because Shafee and his entire legal team had to go into quarantine as his sister-in-law was a close contact of a person who had tested positive for Covid-19.

Shafee later tested negative, but the trial dates from March 19 onwards were repeatedly postponed and rescheduled due to the MCO and various phases of the MCO, with the trial only resuming May 19 last year.

The trial was again postponed and did not proceed according to previously scheduled trial dates from October 5 to 8, as Najib was in voluntary 14-day self-quarantine at home following his September 27 return after assisting Barisan Nasional’s election campaign in Sabah.

The reintroduction of the conditional movement control order (CMCO) later resulted in the 1MDB trial being unable to proceed in October and November, with the trial subsequently also not proceeding in December due to Najib having to attend Dewan Rakyat sittings as the Pekan MP. The trial then resumed in January and February 2021.

On February 18 (which was the last remaining trial date for February for the 1MDB case before hearing resumes in May), the hearing on that day had to be cut short, as prosecution witness Hazem was informed that a friend who had met him in the same meeting room had tested positive for Covid-19.

Previously on February 10 when Hazem had fallen ill with fever symptoms, the 1MDB trial could still proceed as another prosecution witness was called to testify, with the court at that time asking for Hazem to undergo Covid-19 tests. Hazem later tested negative for Covid-19 and could resume testifying on the next scheduled trial date.

As for the SRC appeal hearing where Najib is appealing against his conviction and sentencing to fines and imprisonment, the Court of Appeal had initially fixed 12 days — April 5 to 8, 12 to 15 and 19 to 22 — to hear the appeal.

The Court of Appeal later gave additional hearing dates of April 27 and April 28, before giving on April 28 one last additional hearing date on May 6 for Najib’s lawyers to present their final arguments in court for the appeal.

Malay Mail understands that the May 6 hearing date for the SRC appeal at the Court of Appeal has today been rescheduled and replaced with May 18.

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