PETALING JAYA, July 4 – PKR lawmaker Rafizi Ramli was granted temporary relief today from his charge of violating banking laws when the Court of Appeal agreed to put a pause on proceedings until he exhausts all legal options to strike out the case.
PKR lawyer Latheefa Koya confirmed with The Malay Mail Online that a three-man panel at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya granted the stay order, pending Rafizi’s appeal at the Federal Court.
The Pandan MP (picture) had on June 4 applied at the apex court to appeal the Court of Appeal’s dismissal on May 23 of his attempt to quash the charges under the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA).
“Fortunately today, the court was with us,” Latheefa said when contacted.
She said the three-man bench comprising Datuk Azahar Mohamed, Datuk Rohana Yusuf and Datuk Dr Hamid Sultan Abu Backer agreed that should Rafizi’s trial be allowed to proceed at the Sessions Court, the latter’s appeal at the Federal Court would merely be an academic exercise.
“The stay must be done because if we had won the Federal Court appeal and you insist on having the trial, then you would have rendered the decision of the Federal Court as academic,” she explained.
Latheefa added that the court was also reminded of Rafizi’s status as a lawmaker now and that should the matter against him proceed in the Sessions Court and result in conviction, he could face disqualification.
This would complicate matters, particularly due to his pending appeal at the apex court, she said.
“This is the first time, after all, that we are faced with the issue of a whistleblower being charged under an Act instead of being awarded.
“This is the first time we are litigating this matter and taking it to the Federal Court. So they must allow the stay,” she said.
She said the stay effectively puts Rafizi’s case on hold. It was initially scheduled for case management tomorrow, while trial was fixed for August 26 to 29.
Rafizi was charged with violating BAFIA on August 1 last year when he exposed the confidential banking documents of the National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd (NFCorp), the company at the centre of the RM250 million cattle farming scandal that led to the fall of a senior Umno minister.
The charge under Section 97(1) of BAFIA accuses Rafizi of disclosing four customer account profiles showing the balance summary of NFCorp, the National Meat and Livestocck Sdn Bhd, Agroscience and Industries Sdn Bhd and NFCorp chief executive Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail to two individuals namely Yusuf Abdul Alim and Erle Martin Carvalho.
He faces a maximum RM3 million fine and jail term of up to three years upon conviction, which would effectively disqualify him from his position as the MP for Pandan, a seat he won during the just-concluded May 5 general election.
Rafizi applied to quash the charges on September last year, claiming it was an attempt to silence him and frighten off future whistleblowers.
BY CLARA CHOOI, Malay Mail