Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Mar 12 – Disgraced Malaysian ex-leader Najib Razak’s corruption trial was halted Thursday after his defence team were reportedly ordered to self-quarantine over fears about the coronavirus.
Najib and his cronies are accused of looting billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB and using it to finance a global spending spree.
The allegations played a major part in Najib losing power in 2018, and he has since been arrested and is facing multiple trials over the scandal. He denies wrongdoing.
The legal process has moved slowly, however — and Najib’s main trial was hit by yet another delay Thursday when his defence lawyers failed to turn up in court.
The Kuala Lumpur court heard that they had been ordered to go into quarantine, local media reported, citing one of their colleagues.
This was because the lead lawyer had recently come into contact with his sister-in-law, and one of her colleagues was then diagnosed with the virus, the New Straits Times newspaper reported.
“The spread of the virus is faster than the speed of this trial,” the judge reportedly joked, before ordering Najib’s team to provide letters from a doctor confirming the claims.
There was much scepticism about the claims, however, with one netizen commenting “excuses, excuses, excuses” and another slamming them as a “delaying tactic”.
The virus has infected more than 126,000 people worldwide and killed 4,600 since emerging in China in December, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Malaysia has reported 149 cases so far.