KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 8): Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was given a discharge not amounting to acquittal on three additional charges of money laundering totalling RM47 million.
High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali made the ruling after allowing the application by the prosecution led by Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to give a discharge not amounting to an acquittal to 66-year-old Najib.
“The Public Prosecutor has the power to discontinue or decline to prosecute at any stage of the trial. In my view of the request by the Public Prosecutor, I order that the accused to be discharged not amounting to an acquittal of the three additional charges,” the judge said.
On Jan 28, Najib pleaded not guilty on the three additional charges involving money laundering with a total sum of RM47 million, which was a result of illegal activities in his three AmPrivate Banking accounts.
All the offences were allegedly committed at AmIslamic Bank Berhad, Ambank Group Building, No. 55, Jalan Raja Chulan on July 8, 2014 under Section 4 (1) (a) of the 2001 Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act, which provides for a maximum fine of RM5 million or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both, upon conviction.
Earlier, Thomas told the court that the prosecution proposed not to proceed on three charges against Najib before the High Court and will seek an order of discharge not amounting to an acquittal.
“I will be charging the accused with those charges before the Sessions Court shortly,” he said.
The money laundering case is originated from the Sessions Court and the prosecution should have mentioned the case before the Sessions Court before transfering it to the High Court.
However, the prosecution had, on Jan 28, charged Najib straight away at the High Court.
Thomas also informed the court that the prosecution sought to withdraw the certificate to transfer the case relating to seven charges involving SRC International funds faced by Najib from the Sessions Court to the High Court.
He said because of the Federal Court decisions in Semenyih Jaya (2017) and M. Indira Gandhi (2018), a doubt had arisen in respect of the exercise of the power by the Public Prosecutor to transfer a case from the Sessions Court to the High Court.
“I will now withdraw the certificate I issued to avoid any possible argument that the transfer is a nullity.
“This will save time. I am taking these steps to prevent any challenge that may be taken at any stage that is bound to delay or nullify the trial and result in unnecessary public expense,” he said adding that the judge could use his discretion (suo motu) under Section 417 of Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to transfer the cases before this court.
Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, representing Najib told the court that he was surprised when the prosecution informed the court that they did not want to proceed with the three additional charges against his client.
“This is not 'kedai nasi kandar' where you can just add on rice. The hearing will begin next Tuesday. What will the prosecution do? The three new cases have nothing to do with the old cases (SRC International). The money and the banking account were different,” he said.
Mohd Nazlan in his decision said the court was of the view that the Public Prosecutor was similarly empowered to affect the withdrawal of the Section 418A of the CPC certificate, bearing in mind that there was no judicial determination that this section was unconstitutional by reason of Semenyih Jaya and Indira Ghandi cases.
“I hereby exercise my discretion under Section 417(2) of the CPC to order the transfer of seven charges from the Sessions Court to the High Court under Section 417(1)(e) of the CPC being expedient for the ends of justice,” he said.
The judge also said the seven charges should be continued to be tried before the High Court, as the cases had generated local and international interest.
“There is also no prejudice to the accused,” he said.
Mohd Nazlan said the seven charges were registered on July 4 last year and the prosecution had complied with all the documents and that the hearing date for seven charges had been fixed almost six months ago, to start on Feb 12 this year.
The judge also dismissed Muhammad Shafee’s application for a stay of the trial scheduled on Feb 12 on grounds that there was no special circumstance warranting to stay.
Muhammad Shafee, however, said he would file an appeal against yesterday’s decision saying that it was a serious matter that needs to be taken up to the apex court.
On July 4 last year, the Pekan MP was charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one of abuse of power for gratification involving SRC International funds amounting to RM42 million.
On Aug 8 last year, he was charged with three counts of money laundering involving the same amount of money. — theedgemarkets.com