SINGAPORE: Malaysia's Attorney-General Tommy Thomas on Friday (Aug 31) said he would no longer be leading the prosecution against the country's former prime minister Najib Razak, citing "onerous commitments".
Said Thomas in a statement: "Having been in office for nearly three months and experiencing first hand the demands of the offices of the Attorney-General and Public Prosecutor, coupled with the varied and multi-tasked requirements of the chief legal officer in a reforming administration, I have come to the realisation that I cannot combine these onerous commitments with the simultaneous preparation and conduct of a seven-week trial."
Instead, barrister Sulaiman Abdullah has been appointed to lead the prosecution.
In addition, former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram has been appointed as Senior Deputy Public Prosecutor to spearhead the preparation of charges and prosecutions regarding the "numerous fraudulent deals connected to the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) affair", added Thomas.
Both appointees have waived their fees and will act on a pro bono basis.
The Attorney-General said that a trial of such "importance and complexity" required the full-time attention of lead counsel, not just during the trial but in the months leading up to it and in the preparation of detailed written submissions after the trial.
"Unfortunately, the demands of equally urgent and pressing matters of state do not permit me the time required to focus on this prosecution," he said.
Najib faces charges of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering.
All the charges relate to an alleged transfer of RM42 million (US$10.3 million) into Najib's personal bank account from SRC International, a former unit of state fund 1MDB.
The trial will start on Feb 12 next year and is scheduled to run until Mar 29, 2019.