A Malaysian court has postponed for a week the biggest of five trials linked to a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at state fund 1MDB and allegedly involving former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The hearing will now begin on August 26 to allow time for the completion of a previous trial that revolves around former 1MDB unit SRC International, a Kuala Lumpur High Court judge said on Monday.
“If you need more time, I can stand down or adjourn … but for now, we will proceed on Monday and check again on [this] on Thursday,” Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah said.
Najib, who lost a general election last year, has been hit with 42 criminal charges of corruption and money laundering at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and other state entities.
He has pleaded not guilty and says the charges are politically motivated.
As confirmed to Al Jazeera by his lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abudullah, the former prime minister appeared in court.
His lawyers had sought to delay the 1MDB trial to allow time for another trial, the SRC case, currently being heard in a High Court to be completed first.
The SRC trial, which began in April, was adjourned on August 14 after Najib contracted an eye infection, halting the cross-examination of the prosecution’s final witness. It will resume on Monday, the same day as the start of the 1MDB trial.
1MDB has spawned investigations in at least six countries, including the United States where the Department of Justice alleged $4.5bn has been misappropriated from the fund.
Najib is facing a total of 42 criminal charges of corruption and money laundering at 1MDB and other state-owned entities where he has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In Monday’s highly-anticipated trial, Najib will face four charges of having used his positions to obtain gratification totalling $550m from 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money.
On Friday, prosecutors handed to the defence thousands of pages of documents related to the case, government lawyer Ahmad Akram Gharib told Reuters news agency.
“Under the rules, a trial can only begin at least two weeks after all the related documents are handed over,” Ahmad was quoted as saying by Reuters, adding that about 60 witnesses were expected to be called in the second case.
Najib’s lawyers say he had no knowledge of the transfers into his accounts and was misled by Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho and SRC’s former chief executive, Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, who are at large, according to Reuters.
Low, who faces charges in the US and Malaysia over his alleged central role in the 1MDB case, has consistently denied wrongdoing.
Monday’s trial, also dubbed the 1MDB-Tanore trial, is expected to be as interesting as the SRC trial.
In the SRC trial, Najib faces three counts of criminal breach of trust, one count of abusing his position and three counts of money laundering involving SRC International funds amounting to $10m.
Najib is alleged to have siphoned the amount from SRC International into his personal bank accounts.
During the trial, the court heard of a multimillion-ringgit shopping spree for luxury items, which the prosecution alleged were paid for with money from SRC International.
According to a senior AmBank vice president, Yeoh Eng Leong, Najib spent $790,000 in one day during a shopping spree at a jewellery store at De Grisogono, a Swiss luxury jeweller, in Italy on August 8, 2014, using two credit cards.
In early January 2015, $111,653 was spent at Chanel, an exclusive boutique in Honolulu, the US.
That same month, $30,411 was spent at the Shangri-La Hotel in the Thai capital of Bangkok.
The court also heard how a former AmBank relationship manager, Joanna Yu, once advanced an estimated $13,168 of her own money when one of Najib’s current accounts was in deficit.
There were also sensational allegations from former Finance Minister II Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, who claimed that Najib was behind sexual harassment charges against him after he raised questions regarding 1MDB in Parliament.
Husni also claimed that his son was removed from a company, which was bidding for road contract after that.
According to reports, the hearing on the SRC could wrap up as early as on Monday.
With additional reporting from Amy Chew in Kuala Lumpur.