By Aathi Shankar
Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s defence team is running out of time to prepare its case for the forthcoming 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) trial.
The High Court Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah has fixed next Monday, August 26, 2019, to commence the Najib-1MDB trial.
The prosecution team has handed over 15 volumes of case documents, including witness statements, consisting some 6,000 pages for the defence to scrutinise and prepare its case within the next week.
But actually, the defence, headed by Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, only has some four days to go through the papers and make the necessary preparations.
Currently, Shafee and his team are tied-up in the last leg of Najib’s trial involving SRC International Sdn Bhd.
The Najib-SRC trial should have been completed last week but the hearing was cancelled for 3 days after Najib’s eyes suffered from conjunctivitis.
Hence, the prima facie trial shall be completed this week with the testimony from its final 57th prosecution witness, Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) investigating officer Senior Assistant Commissioner Rosli Hussain.
Pekan MP Najib was slapped with seven corruption charges pertaining to RM42 million of SRC International funds.
The charges were 3 each for CBT under Section 409 of the Penal Code and money laundering under Section 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities (AMLA) Act 2001, and 1 for abuse of power under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009.
Najib, 66, was charged with committing the offences at AmIslamic Bank Bhd in Jalan Raja Chulan and the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya between Aug 17, 2011, and Feb 10, 2015.
In the forthcoming 1MDB trial, Najib has been slapped with total of 25 charges involving nearly RM2.3bil of 1MDB funds.
The charges are four for abuse of power under the MACC Act and 21 charges of money laundering under AMLA.
The Pekan MP is alleged to have committed the offences at the AmIslamic Bank Bhd at No 55, Jalan Raja Chulan, Bukit Ceylon between 2011 and 2014.
Everyone is equal before the law and has every right to a fair trial.
Which means when a person is charged with a crime, or involved in some other legal dispute, the person has the right to a fair trial.
Hence, a fair public hearing within a reasonable time by an open, independent and impartial court is a must under the rule of law, a doctrine advocated by the country’s Rukunegara, the national principles of Malaysia.
A judge who cherishes the rule of law and liberty of a man is always obliged to uphold this national principle of justice.
He should give all those involved in a case adequate and sufficient time to prepare their cases.
Moreover, this case involves a former premier and finance minister, by definition a high profile case.
Thus the judge should not rush or seen to be hasty to start and conclude the trial at the expense of a fair trial.
It could raise a prejudicial question on “why the judge is in a hurry?”
“Is he under tremendous political pressure to convict a person sooner than later by forsaking a fair trial?”
The Najib-SRC case has already taken its toll on all those involved in it.
The accused and lawyers from both sides are lacking sleep and exercise, and losing their precious personal and family time as well.
Now with the start of 1MDB trial straightaway after the completion of SRC trial may even lead to those involved in it to suffer from fatigue.
The 1MDB has been scheduled to end somewhere this November.
But observers doubt the trial could be completed by then.
“The SRC trial with only 7 charges was heard for over five months.
“Imagine how long it will take to complete the hearing for 25 charges,” asked a curious observer.
Najib faces a total of 42 charges.
After the completion of SRC and 1MDB trials, he would face separate trials for the remaining 10 charges.
It’s just staggering to see a former premier being slapped with 42 charges pertaining to alleged abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money-laundering.
Najib was a mere advisor of 1MDB and SRC International.
The SRC trial has implied that Najib was never involved in any day-to-day business of the government-link companies (GLCs).
He was not even a member of either companies’ boards of directors.
He was also never entrusted with their funds.
The company laws have expressly stated that the board of directors, not the board of advisors, was the ultimate governing body of a company.
The board of directors is ultimately responsible and accountable for all dealing and wheeling in a company.
But the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government has set a bad precedent by going after a mere advisor of a company.
The PH vicious regime has persisted to charge a company advisor, rather than the directors.
Thus, it’s not an overstatement to suggest that Najib’s graft trials were political persecution driven by personal vengeance, hatred and vendetta.