Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) have been spared from filing their defence by Feb 9 in a lawsuit brought against them by GANT1 for paying US$1.2 billion to Abu Dhabi-based International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).
This was decided yesterday by a Court of Appeal three-man bench comprising Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh, Datuk Ahmadi Asnawi and Datuk Kamardin Hashim which unanimously allowed their stay applications.
The High Court in Kuala Lumpur had refused them stay a week ago.
However, Justice Mohd Zawawi Salleh, who led the bench, said the applications by Najib and 1MDB should be allowed due to the special circumstances of the case.
“If the stay is not granted and in the event that their appeal (to strike out the suit) at the Court of Appeal is allowed, it will be a waste of judicial time,” Zawawi said.
Last week, High Court judge Hue Siew Kheng ordered Najib, 1MDB and the government to file their defence by Feb 9 as they would not suffer any prejudice.
Najib’s lawyer Mohamed Hafarizam submitted that the plaintiffs did not have the locus standi to bring the action.
“Najib ought not to be brought in as a party as the out-of-court settlement in London involved IPIC and 1MDB,” Hafarizam said.
He said it was also wrong for a Malaysian court to interfere with judicial affairs outside Malaysia.
1MDB lawyer Tan Hock Chuan said a short stay should be allowed as the Court of Appeal had fixed case management on Feb 13 and the appeal against the High Court’s refusal to strike out the suit would be heard soon.
Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla who represented his clients, named as Gerakan Anakmuda Tolak Najib (GANT1) and comprising opposition youth members, said there were no special circumstances to allow the stay.
He said Justice Hue had held that there was no statement under oath that the consent award between IPIC and 1MDB was protected under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) or any other law to restrict them from filing their defence.
Haniff said that his clients had filed their suit in July, and that Najib and 1MDB were stalling the proceeding by refusing to file their defence.
He said although case management had been fixed on Feb 13, it was uncertain when the appeal would be heard.
“Our case is based on grounds that the out-of-court settlement was obtained by deceit and fraud. We have come here with clean hands and if we lose, we pay the costs,” Haniff said.
He added that a recent directive by Chief Justice Raus Sharif stated that cases should not be postponed unless there was “death or near death”.
On Jan 9, Justice Hue had dismissed applications by Najib, 1MDB and the government to strike out the suit.
The trio then appealed to the Court of Appeal.
On July 11 last year, GANT1, headed by Parti Amanah Negara Youth deputy chief Muhammad Faiz Fadzil and nine other individuals filed the lawsuit against Najib, 1MDB and the Government of Malaysia.
The lawsuit was over a consent award at the London Court of International Arbitration entered by 1MDB with IPIC concerning 1MDB’s alleged US$3.5 billion bond assistance from IPIC and its subsidiary Aabar Investment PJS (Aabar Asli) for the purchase of an energy plant.
In their statement of claim, the GANT1 members claimed that IPIC and Aabar Asli, on June 14, 2016, brought their case to the London Court of International Arbitration against 1MDB and the government relating to a US$6.5 billion claim for 1MDB’s failure to honour the contract.
The GANT1 members are seeking, among others, a declaration that the settlement agreement and consent award signed in London were null and void.
After the court’s decision, Najib’s lawyer said the deadline for his client to file his statement of defence was this Friday but since a stay was given they need not file the defence.
Related report: Jan 30, Court Orders PM, 1MDB, Govt to Enter Defence in Suit Against IPIC Settlement