KUALA LUMPUR: Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas has stepped aside as lead prosecutor in the criminal case against former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
He will be replaced as lead prosecutor by Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah and assisted by retired Federal Court Judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram.
Thomas explained that the move to step aside was due to his commitment, responsibility and demands to the office of the AG.
This, he said would prevent him from fully devoting himself to the case which would go to trial next year.
“ 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 multitasked 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 in PP v. Najib Razak, fixed to commence on Feb 12, 2019 and completing on March 29, 2019,” he said in a statement today.
Thomas said a trial of such importance and complexity requires the full-time attention of the lead counsel, not just during the duration of the trial, but also in the months leading to the trial, followed by the preparation of detailed written submissions after the trial.
He will be replaced as lead prosecutor by Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah (pic) and assisted by retired Federal Court Judge Datuk Seri Sri Ram. Pic by NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAH
“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.
Thomas said as such he had exercised his discretion under Section 379 of the Criminal Procedure Code and had appointed Sulaiman to lead the prosecution in the case.
“Datuk Sulaiman is one of the nation’s leading barristers, having substantial experience in criminal law, including white collar crime. His eloquence is unmatched, and his intellect second to none. Datuk Sulaiman has impeccable integrity, and is a principled lawyer."
Thomas added that Sulaiman had agreed to waive all fees and would provide his services on a “pro bono” basis in the case.
He said it is public knowledge that the Investigation Papers (IP) into the numerous fraudulent deals connected to the 1MDB affair had not been submitted to the AG's Chambers (AGC) by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the police.
The exception, he said, being one IP concerning fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, which resulted in charges and the issue of warrants of arrest against him and his father last week.
He said upon receipt of the IPs from the investigating agencies, the AGC is required to study them, prepare
charges and prosecute the alleged accused at trials.
Thomas also said that Sri Ram was appointed as Senior Deputy Public Prosecutor pursuant to Section 376 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
“Datuk Seri Sri Ram, a retired Federal Court Judge, has returned to active practice. He has substantial experience in criminal law matters. His strong and determined personality will no doubt enhance the investigation and prosecution in all matters pertaining to the 1MDB scandal."
He said Sri Ram had also waived his fees and would act on a “pro bono” basis.
“With the twin appointments of the leading lights in the Malaysian Bar, our commitment to prosecuting those responsible for the greatest kleptocracy in the history of the world with the gravity that it deserves, and that ordinary Malaysians expect, cannot be doubted," Thomas said. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd