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Judge rejects AG's bid to delay Najib's main 1MDB trial, hearing to start on Aug 19

KUALA LUMPUR (July 18): The judge in the main 1MDB criminal case involving 25 charges against Datuk Seri Najib Razak has put his foot down and dismissed the application by the prosecution to postpone the trial for the third time.

This means that the case, dubbed "Tanore case", will be heard on its assigned date of Aug 19, putting further pressure on the attorney-general to conclude the ongoing RM42 million SRC trial, where the former prime minister is also the accused.

In his decision today, High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah said he did not find a reasonable cause to postpone the 1MDB trial, which has in fact been adjourned twice from Feb 12 to May 14, and later Aug 19.

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas later told the High Court hearing the SRC case that the prosecution intends to appeal against Justice Sequerah's decision.

Earlier, Thomas raised to the judge that Najib — the accused in both trials — and witnesses would be unable to attend if the two trials ran concurrently, hence invoking Section 259(1) of the Criminal Procedural Code (CPC).

As an accused must be present when a criminal trial is underway, the two criminal trials cannot run concurrently, Thomas pointed out.

The two trials likely involve many of the same characters, considering they are part of the larger money trail to the tune of billions of ringgit allegedly siphoned by Najib from the beleaguered state-owned fund 1MDB.

Justice Sequerah said he did not find the justification provided by the applicant as having invoked the meaning of 'reasonable cause' in Section 259 of the CPC.

The Tanore trial is also of public interest, said the judge, adding that he has already granted the two prior postponements previously.

Justice Sequerah also raised the important point that once the charges have been referred, the prosecution must be prepared to proceed with the trial without unreasonable delay.

"The charges were first read in September 2018 in the Sessions Court," he said, adding that it has been almost "eleven months" since the court first commenced on the Tanore charges.

"The notice of motion is thus dismissed. The trial dates previously fixed are maintained," Justice Sequerah said in his decision.

"But parties are at liberty to apply, when necessary, for the dates to be vacated for the SRC trial to continue once the Tanore trial has begun," the judge said.

On a related matter, Justice Sequerah shared that there are about 20 or less prosecution witness to be called in. To date, the SRC trial has called in 52 witnesses.

Without any interruption, the prosecution in the SRC case can only conclude their case at end-August at the latest, and the likely scenario is that the trial can only be concluded by early next year, Justice Sequerah opined.

Twenty-five of 42 criminal charges slapped against Najib are contained in the 1MDB trial.

In the Tanore case, Najib is facing four corruption charges for abuse of power in 1MDB dealings, and 21 money laundering charges, where over RM2 billion was channelled from Tanore Finance Corp through his personal bank account.

The US Department of Justice has established that the funds from Tanore in fact came from 1MDB, while Najib has said in his Facebook account in September last year that the fund was part of donation from Prince Abdulaziz Al-Saud from Saudi Arabia.

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