KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said on Tuesday (Feb 12) that he will seek to expedite the trial of former prime minister Najib Razak over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, adding that he will push for the hearing to begin on Feb 25.
This comes a day after the Court of Appeal (COA) allowed an application by Najib to stay the hearing of his trial, pending an appeal over a technicality related to the transfer of charges between different courts.
The high-profile trial was scheduled to kick off on Tuesday.
Mr Thomas informed the High Court on Tuesday that he will write a letter to the president of the COA to expedite the hearing of Najib’s appeal.
"If they (the defence) were sincere and genuine in their appeal, why (do) they want to delay the trial,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.
“We (the prosecution) don't want to delay the trial," he said when the case came up for mention before judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.
The Attorney-General asked the court to keep to the trial dates that had been fixed earlier, from Feb 25 to 28 and from Mar 4 to 29.
"We are confident that the appeal (filed by Najib) can be resolved by next week," Mr Thomas said.
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Outside the court, lawyer V Sithambaram, who was appointed to assist the prosecution team, told reporters that the prosecution will write to the COA for an early hearing date because the case involved public interest.
"We hope the president of COA will fix the hearing date for the appeal very shortly. So, the prosecution is confident that the case can go for trial from Feb 25 until the end of March,” he added.
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.
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Billions of dollars were allegedly stolen by Najib and his cronies from 1MDB, 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 Barisan Nasional's loss at the general election last May.
The start of Najib's 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.