KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak has succeeded in his last-ditch bid to delay the start of his trial over the 1MDB scandal, which contributed to his government's shock election defeat.
The Court of Appeal on Monday (Feb 11) allowed an application by Najib to stay the hearing of his SRC International trial, which was supposed to take place on Tuesday.
Billions of dollars were allegedly stolen by Najib and his cronies from the fund, which was set up to help develop Malaysia's economy, and spent on everything from high-end real estate to expensive artworks.
The scandal was a major factor in his long-ruling coalition's loss at the general election last May. Since losing power, Najib has been arrested repeatedly and hit with a total of 42 charges linked to 1MDB. He has denied wrongdoing.
The trial that had been scheduled to begin Tuesday is on seven charges related to allegations Najib pocketed 42 million ringgit (US$10.3 million) from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.
SRC was the initial focus of Malaysian investigators as all the suspicious transactions involving the firm were made through Malaysian entities, unlike other 1MDB-related transactions that went through foreign banks and companies.
Najib's lawyers filed an application for the trial to be delayed pending an appeal on a technicality related to the transfer of charges between different courts.
It is just one of several trials Najib is expected to face over 1MDB and involves a fraction of the total purportedly stolen from the fund.
No new date for the trial or the appeal has been set, said Harvinderjit Singh, one of Najib's lawyers.
"It won't be delayed too long," said V Sithambaram, a criminal lawyer on the prosecution team, adding that he hoped the appeal would only take a week or two.
The start of the first trial will be a key moment, and may relieve pressure on the new government following criticism that it has been slow to act over 1MDB.
Far from keeping quiet, Najib has gone on a bizarre publicity blitz in recent weeks, performing a cover of a 1970s R&B hit accompanied by backing singers, attacking the new government on social media and seeking to present himself as a man of the people.