Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told the High Court today that the government was trying to end Najib Razak’s political career by making him a bankrupt over his failure to pay taxes.
The Inland Revenue Board’s lawsuit against Najib for RM1.69 billion in unpaid taxes from 2011 to 2017 was a political move, Shafee argued today.
During today’s High Court hearing of Najib’s application for a stay of the matter, Shafee asserted that the action was meant to kill off Najib’s political career.
Najib previously said he could not pay the sum claimed.
“Once my client is labelled a bankrupt, he will be out of the political arena.
“Politically he is gone,” Shafee said when applying for the stay.
Article 48 of the Federal Constitution states that an elected representative – MP or assemblyman – is disqualified, for among others, being declared a bankrupt.
Najib, is currently the MP for Pekan, the seat he has been holding from 1976.
Shafee argued that the matter should only be heard after the end of Najib’s related trials involving SRC International Sdn Bhd and 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
He said the IRB’s assessment was based on funds amounting to billions of ringgit at the centre of both cases.
The lawyer reiterated that Najib did not have the means to settle the tax arrears as legally required before an appeal for a review may be made to the Special Commissioners of Income Tax, even if the former PM’s assets suddenly increased in value tenfold.
Shafee went as far as claiming only billionaire Jeff Bezos, the owner of US e-commerce giant Amazon, would be able to pay the RM1.69 billion.
Senior lawyer Datuk DP Naban, who appeared for the IRB, countered that Najib’s stay application was premature and should only come after a full judgment is delivered.
“To stay the entire proceeding now shows the fear of losing or unable to pay,” he said, arguing that granting this now would prevent the court from even considering a summary judgment.
Citing the Income Tax Act, he said the courts should not consider appeals over tax arrears claimed by the IRB when this is litigated.
Specifically, Section 106 (3) of the Income Tax Act states that in any proceedings under Section 106 of the Act, the court shall not entertain any plea that the amount of tax sought to be recovered is excessive, incorrectly assessed, under appeal or incorrectly increased.
Naban also suggested that it was not certain the IRB would initiate bankruptcy proceedings against Najib upon any failure to pay, as there were other measures it could take.
“We could go order for sale, garnishing proceeding or writ of seizure or sale,” he added.
Today was also set for the High Court to hear the IRB’s application for a summary judgment of the matter.
High Court judge Datuk Ahmad Bache then fixed February 28 for his decision on whether the IRB could proceed with its lawsuit against Najib after hearing submissions from both lawyers.