KUALA LUMPUR (March 30): Former Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) chairman Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad fears that he will be discriminated against should his corruption trial proceed in the Sessions Court instead of the High Court.

Shahrir, who has been charged with failing to declare the RM1 million he received from former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to the Inland Revenue Board (IRB), applied in August last year to be tried in the High Court despite being charged in the Sessions Court.

In an affidavit in support of the transfer, Shahrir said he could not understand why the public prosecutor’s under the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) is objecting to the transfer.

“I believe this objection shows that my constitutional right to equality and equal protection of the law is being denied,” he said in the affidavit.

Shahrir, a former Johor Baru Member of Parliament (MP), cited as examples the corruption trials of Najib, Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who were all charged in the Sessions Court and had their cases transferred to the High Court.

Shahrir’s lawyer Syahrul Syazwan Salehin said today that these cases had similar charges and were all transferred to the High Court without any objection from the prosecution.

“All three cases have the same elements; all were transferred [to the High Court] without objection. However, they (the deputy public prosecutor or DPP) are objecting to this now,” he said.

Shahrir’s contention is that if his case is allowed to proceed in the Session’s Court, his appeal in the Court of Appeal (should he be found guilty) would only see a five-member bench of judges as opposed to a nine-member bench if his case begins in the High Court.

Earlier today, Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan set May 21 to hear his transfer application.

The application was initially set to be heard today, but Justice Zaini pushed it to a later date to allow the prosecution time to reply to the affidavit.

Sessions Court Judge Azura Alwi, who is set to preside over the trial, has also pushed the trial's start date, pending the outcome of the application before Justice Zaini.

Shahrir, 72, is charged with money laundering by not stating his real income in the Income Tax Return Form for Assessment Year 2013, which is a violation of Section 113(1)(a) of the Income Tax Act 1967, by not including the RM1 million, which he received from Najib through an AmIslamic Bank Bhd cheque dated Nov 27, 2013. The sum is believed to have come from unlawful activities.

The cheque was deposited into Shahrir’s Public Islamic Bank account on Nov 28, 2013.

He was charged with committing the offence at the IRB, Duta branch, Government Office Complex, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim here on April 25, 2014.

The charge, framed under Section 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001, provides a maximum fine of RM5 million or imprisonment for up to five years, or both, if found guilty.

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