KUALA LUMPUR (July 4): The High Court judge overseeing the criminal charges against Datuk Seri Najib Razak did not provide any grounds in approving a gag order on the public from discussing the charges, said Attorney-General (A-G) Tommy Thomas today.
"I don't think he gave grounds [on permitting the order]... [and] I think you should ask the [defense team] why they [made that request]," Thomas told an ad-hoc press conference at the Jalan Duta Court Complex here.
Earlier, High Court judge Datuk Mohd Sofian Abd Razak approved a request by Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah for an order to ban the public from discussing the four charges against Najib through any form of media, from now until Aug 8.
Thomas, who leads a 12-member prosecution team against Najib, also said the interim gag should be limited to the topic of SRC International Sdn Bhd and the four criminal charges.
“We objected to the gag order. We are not sure whether the court has jurisdiction to order the gag. Of course, I assure you, you can report on the proceedings today," he said, adding he expects the High Court to set out the extent of the order in due time.
The gag order is currently at the interim stage, and the court is set to determine on Aug 8 — the same day the interim gag order that takes effect today is scheduled to end — about whether to implement it in full throughout the case hearing. Thomas said he will oppose it during case management on Aug 8.
Najib was granted bail of RM1 million by the High Court today, after he pleaded not guilty to three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and one count of abuse of power relating to some RM42 million that was allegedly siphoned out of SRC International.
Thomas also dismissed claims that the charges pressed against Najib is a political manoeuvre against the former premier.
“As far as we are concerned, we are looking at it from a criminal law perspective. It does not matter who the personality is.
“We have reached a conclusion that we have a strong prima facie case. We accept that the burden is on us to prove it at the trial, [and] we accept that he is innocent until proven guilty,” he said.
“We have been very generous on bail; we did not object to bail as a matter of principle. I think we have been very fair,” he added.
While Thomas refused to comment on whether Najib will be facing more charges later, he said more investigation papers (IPs) will come up, which could translate into additional charges, moving forward.
"This is what the MACC promises," he said, adding that the charges today are a result of the first IP submitted by the MACC to the Attorney-General's chambers about three weeks ago.
"No doubt, there will be more IPs, but I think you should ask the MACC [about] that, because they do the investigation and we do the prosecution," he said.
Thomas also said future cases against Najib, if any, would revolve around 1MDB.
"1MDB is a short-hand statement to describe what happened over four, five years. There are discreet, separate [monetary] transactions which the US Department of Justice has detailed [previously].
"There are different transactions, different episodes over a long period of time, and I would expect the MACC to look at it that way, and when they complete [the IPs], they can come and give it to us,” he said.
In a related matter, Thomas declined to comment on the Malaysian Bar Council's statement questioning whether the 1MDB special task force has the right to order Najib’s arrest.
The special task force, which was set up to lead the recovery of 1MDB-linked assets, made an announcement about Najib’s arrest on Tuesday.
The four-party task force comprises MACC chief commissioner Datuk Seri Shukri Abdull, former MACC commissioner Datuk Abu Kassim bin Mohamed, former attorney-general Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and police special branch chief Datuk Abdul Hamid Bador.
“Only the A-G can press charges. I think that part is clear, which is why we are all here,” Thomas said. On [whether the task force is legally empowered to order an arrest], you have to ask the investigation agency. I am not going to intrude in that area.
“In this case, I think the MACC investigated, [and that] they made the arrest,” he said.
On Shafee's plan to request Thomas' removal from the prosecution team, the latter said: "Let's wait for the application. He said there will be an application."