Malaysia’s ex-PM Najib asks chief justice to step out from appeal panel

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Najib Razak,  former prime minister of Malaysia, requested on Tuesday that the chief justice abstain from sitting over a panel hearing his final appeal to overturn his conviction for corruption and 12-year prison term in a case related to the 1MDB financial scandal.

The action was taken after Malaysian prosecutors finished their arguments last week, and the Federal Court could perhaps announce its ruling on Tuesday or set a new date for it. Due to a lack of preparation time, Najib’s attorneys declined to deliver their arguments.

Najib’s attorney requested on Monday that the Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat be removed from the five-member panel hearing his appeal due to “a serious danger of bias” brought on by her husband’s social media remarks from 2018.

“Being the husband of the chairperson that is adjudicating my appeal it is likely that he would have influenced the thinking of the mind of the chairperson as to my alleged culpability,” according to the application seen by Reuters.

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In order to prepare for the application’s hearing, the court took a break.

Critics saw the application as Najib’s latest attempt to delay the issuance of the top court’s final decision.

Just three weeks before to the start of the final appeals process last week, he switched legal counsel. Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, the attorney representing the client, attempted to resign last week but the court refused to let him go.

Najib, 69, was convicted in July 2020 of criminally breaching trust, abusing his position of authority, and money laundering for obtaining $10 million from SRC International, a former division of the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, without authorization (1MDB).

Najib, who maintained his innocence, was given a 12-year prison term and fined 210 million ringgit ($46.84 million).

In a massive scandal that has authorities and financial institutions from all over the world implicated, prosecutors claim that almost $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB, which Najib co-founded in 2009 while serving as premier.

Najib has continuously disputed the accusations despite the fact that he is facing many trials.

(With inputs from agencies)

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