KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak on Tuesday asked the chief justice to recuse herself from a panel presiding over his final appeal to set aside his corruption conviction and 12-year jail sentence over a case linked to the 1MDB financial scandal.
The move comes as the Federal Court could potentially deliver its verdict on Tuesday or set a new date for its decision after Malaysian prosecutors wrapped up their arguments last week. Najib's lawyers declined to present their submissions, citing insufficient time to prepare.
Najib's lawyer filed a court application on Monday to remove Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat from a five-member panel hearing his appeal, citing "a real danger of bias" due to social media comments made by her husband in 2018 that were critical of Najib.
"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.
The court adjourned to prepare for the hearing of the application.
The application is seen by critics as another step by Najib to hold up the delivery of the final verdict by the top court.
He changed his legal team just three weeks before the final appeals process that started last week. His lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik tried to quit last week, saying he did not have enough time to prepare, but the court refused to discharge him.
Najib, 69, was found guilty in July 2020 of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power, and money laundering for illegally receiving about $10 million from SRC International, a former unit of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Najib, who pleaded not guilty, was sentenced to 12 years' jail and a 210 million ringgit ($46.84 million) fine.
Prosecutors have said some $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB - co-founded by Najib as premier in 2009 - in a wide-ranging scandal that has implicated officials and financial institutions around the world.
Najib, who faces several trials over the allegations, has consistently denied wrongdoing.
Najib has said that his right to a fair trial was at risk, after the court rejected multiple requests to postpone the appeal to allow his new legal team to fully prepare.
His previous lawyers had submitted a written petition ahead of the hearings.
In his submissions, Najib listed 94 reasons why he should be acquitted, including that lower courts had erred in some of their findings.
Prosecutors have said Najib was aware that the funds received in his account were proceeds from "an unlawful activity," and had exercised his position as prime minister, finance minister and advisor to SRC International to obtain the funds.