Najib’s lawyer reads out WSJ, ‘Billion Dollar Whale’ in court to demand documents

Datuk Seri Najib Razak leaves the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex April 17, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Datuk Seri Najib Razak leaves the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex April 17, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, April 17 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyer today read out in court excerpts from several Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports and the Billion Dollar Whale book chronicling the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal and fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho’s role in it.

Najib’s lawyer Harvinderjit Singh did so to request several documents, but he made it clear that he was not admitting that the contents of the book and reports were true.

“Again, I’m not admitting to the veracity, I’m just confirming the fact that these have been published,” he told the court.

Harvinderjit read from a copy of Billion Dollar Whale that was tagged and bookmarked multiple times, highlighting pages such as 221 and 299.

The excerpt from page 221 which Harvinderjit read aloud was regarding an alleged Blackberry message sent in March 2013 by Low to inform Ambank officer Joanna Yu that "681 American Pies" or the codeword for US$681 million would be deposited into Najib's account, while page 299's excerpt was in relation to the alleged communication where Yu reassured Low that Najib's credit card limit then was still US$1 million during an 2014 episode where the credit card was allegedly used for a US$130,625 bill in a Chanel store in Hawaii.

He also handed over the copies of the WSJ articles — dated July 2, 2015, July 7, 2015, September 6, 2016 — that he had read out to High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.

Harvinderjit had read the excerpts during arguments that lasted over an hour in support of the request by Najib’s lawyers to view items seized by Bank Negara Malaysia investigators from Ambank officer Joanna Yu Ging Ping.

Among other things, the excerpts mentioned transcripts of conversations between Yu and Low, who is otherwise known as Jho Low, via Blackberry.

Having read out the excerpts, Harvinderjit said: “All of these come to the conclusion: The Wall Street Journal had copies of documents from investigators, copies of transcripts, but we don’t have these things.

“The witness has items seized from Joanna Yu. Most important, if anything, the Blackberry and transcripts.”

After hearing arguments from both sides, Mohd Nazlan allowed Najib’s lawyers to seek the documents on communications between Ambank officers and other individuals from BNM officer Ahmad Farhan Sharifuddin.

“My ruling on this application, I’m of the view, given the grounds by the defence, the request for the production of documents which relate only to communication by the bank to be allowed,” he said.

Today is the fourth day of Najib’s trial over alleged criminal breach of trust and money-laundering of RM42 million in funds from ex-1MDB unit SRC International Sdn Bhd. Ahmad Farhan was testifying as the fourth prosecution witness.

After the judge’s ruling, Harvinderjit told the court he was seeking records on the communications between Ambank’s relationship managers Yu, Daniel Lee and Krystle Yap — including emails — with a long list of individuals linked to 1MDB and SRC International.

The individuals listed by Harvinderjit include Low, Jerome Lee Tak Loong, Terrence Geh Choh Heng, See Yoke Peng, Jasmine Loo Ai Swan, Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, Datuk Suboh Md Yassin and Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi.

Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah speaks to reporters at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex April 17, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah speaks to reporters at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex April 17, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the defence team also wants the recordings of official phone conversations of bank officials when they confirmed instructions on banking matters, as well as Blackberry messages from any bank officials who went “rogue” by using such methods to communicate with clients.

Earlier, the prosecution had objected to Najib’s lawyers’ bid to ask prosecution witness Ahmad Farhan for the seized items.

Ad-hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram accused the defence team of going on a “fishing expedition” to seek for documents that the prosecution was not relying on in the trial, arguing that Najib’s lawyers should first show the relevance of the items sought.

“We are saying these are documents we are not relying on, but they show how it is relevant, we will show it to them. We want to follow the correct procedure,” he said, suggesting it would “open the floodgates” where every prosecution witness may similarly be asked to bring in additional documents.

Earlier, Ahmad Farhan had, among other things, said he had met with Yu during a July 6, 2015 raid by BNM at Ambank’s office at Level 24 of the Ambank Group building at Jalan Raja Chulan in Kuala Lumpur.

Ahmad Farhan could not recall if electronics were seized from Yu during the July 2015 raid, but was able to confirm that items that were confiscated from the bank officer are in his custody and that he would have to check what was seized.

Ahmad Farhan said he also took down Yu’s statement about one or two months before the raid in relation to banking transactions linked to 1MDB.

Najib’s trial resumes tomorrow morning.

When met outside the courtroom, Shafee explained why Najib’s lawyers had sought to seek the seized items from Ambank officer Yu that are currently in Ahmad Farhan’s care.

Shafee claimed that Najib does not personally deal with his own accounts and delegates the task to others, further asserting that Najib was an alleged victim rather than part of a purported conspiracy by Low.

“We hope to prove that there are no instructions from the PM (Najib). Never. A lot of instructions came from those people who claimed to be nominees,” Shafee claimed.

“The communication will show whether Najib is complicit in the criminality or not, or is he a victim rather than a perpetrator,” he added.

*Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported Harvinderjit as having highlighted page 229 of the 'Billion Dollar Whale', instead of page 299, and has since been rectified.