Kuala Lumpur (AFP) – Malaysian former premier Najib Razak’s trial over the 1MDB mega-scandal was postponed Monday to allow an appeal to be heard, in the latest blow to slow-moving efforts to bring the disgraced politician to justice.
Najib had been due to go on trial Tuesday for the first time over allegations he was involved in the looting of Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in a fraud that stretched around the world.
But his 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.
The Court of Appeal on Monday agreed to the postponement to allow for the appeal to be heard, V. Sithambaram, a criminal lawyer on the prosecution team, told AFP.
“It won’t be delayed too long,” he said, adding he hoped the appeal would only take a week or two.
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 his long-ruling coalition’s loss at polls in 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 originally scheduled to begin Tuesday is on seven charges related to allegations Najib pocketed 42 million ringgit ($10.3 million) from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.
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.
But the start of the first trial will be a key moment, and could have relieved pressure on the new government over claims it has moved slowly on 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.
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