Malaysia’s Attorney General, Tommy Thomas, announced on Friday (Aug 31) that he is stepping aside as the lead prosecutor in the 1MDB case against former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Thomas cited “onerous commitments” and responsibilities as Attorney General for taking himself off the case.
In a statement that Thomas released, he said: “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 multi-tasked 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.”
Under Section 379 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Thomas added that he would use his discretion to appoint Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah to lead the case in his stead.
Datuk Seri Gopal Seri Sri Ram has also been appointed as deputy public prosecutor to provide more aid, and Thomas announced that both men have offered their services to the case on pro bono basis, waiving all fees.
Talking about Sulaiman, Thomas said that he 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”, he added.
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 it, followed by the preparation of detailed written submissions after the trial.
Najib was charged with criminal breach of trust and arrested in relation to a probe investigating billions of dollars missing from the state investment fund 1MDB, but recently he pleaded not guilty to new money laundering charges tied to the 1MDB fund.
The trial is set to commence on February 12 2019 and complete on March 29 2019.