SHAH ALAM, Nov 23 — PKR’s Rafizi Ramli will have to stand trial for violating banking laws in blowing the whistle on the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) project after the High Court rejected today his bid to strike out the charges.
High Court judge Datuk Ghazali Cha ruled that the whistleblower was too premature in seeking to strike out the charges but allowed him a stay on the trial that was set to start on Monday.
“The court rejects the application by Rafizi(picture) seeing as it is pre-mature and I am of the opinion that until the prosecution’s case against him is yet to start it cannot be considered mala fide (in bad faith),” Ghazali said.
The judge also agreed to allow the trial to be suspended after Rafizi’s lawyer, Sivarasa Rasiah, made an oral application for a stay.
Rafizi’s defence team, which also include lawyer Latheefa Koya, later told reporters they would be filing an appeal against the strike-out at the Court of Appeal, most likely on Monday.
Rafizi, PKR’s strategy director, was charged under section 97(1) of the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA), for allegedly disclosing four customer account profiles detailing the balance summary for National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp), National Meat and Livestock Sdn Bhd, Agroscience and Industries Sdn Bhd, and NFCorp chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail, to two individuals identified as Yusuf Abdul Alim and Erle Martin Carvalho.
NFCorp runs the NFC, a RM250 million federal-funded cattle-farming project that has been at the centre of a major national scandal.
Under section 103(1)(a) of the same law, he may be fined a maximum of RM3 million and jailed up to three years if found guilty, which could seriously hobble Rafizi’s chances of standing as a candidate in the 13th general election that must be held by April next year when the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s mandate expires.
Former Public Bank clerk Johari Mohamad was also charged on August 1 with abetting Rafizi in disclosing the account profiles of the same four customers, under section 112(1)(a) of the BAFIA, read together with section 91(1) of the same law that deals with confidential banking information.
He faces the same sentence as Rafizi if convicted.
Both Rafizi and Johari had pleaded not guilty to the charges in the Shah Alam Sessions Court on August 1, and they were released on RM15,000 bail each.
Rafizi, 35, who has earned the moniker as PKR’s “expose man”, had filed to cancel the BAFIA charges on September 10, which he claimed were selective and politically motivated.
Rafizi’s case, as well as that of the ex-bank clerk Johari, has highlighted the importance of protecting bank customers’ data and also caused renewed scrutiny of the country’s whistleblower protection laws.