KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 — The trial and cases relating to the scandalous 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) saga hogged the limelight of court cases in 2019.
This included Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s trial for alleged misappropriation of RM42 million in SRC International Sdn Bhd funds which kicked off on April 3 and ended on August 27, 2019 with the prosecution closing the case after a total of 57 witnesses were called to testify.
Last November 11, High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali ordered Najib, 66, to enter his defence on three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT), three counts of money laundering and one count of abuse of position in relation to the 1MDB funds after finding that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing prima facie in the case.
On December 3, it was the first time in the country’s history that a former prime minister took the stand to answer charges against him in a court of law.
Testifying from the witness box as the first defence witness, Najib told his side of the story to rebut the seven charges over the alleged misappropriation of SRC funds.
The much-awaited proceedings saw Najib, who sworn in both Bahasa Melayu and English, read out his 243-page witness statement and then cross-examined by Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas.
The Pekan MP opted to answer mostly in Bahasa Melayu even though Thomas forwarded the questions in English. Sometimes, Najib, responded in English.
Najib’s second trial was on four charges of using his positions to obtain gratification totalling RM2.3 billion in 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money, which commenced on August 28 before High Court Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.
As of today, a total of nine witnesses have testified, with one of the key witnesses, namely the former chief executive officer of 1MDB, Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi telling the court that the sovereign wealth funds were a strategic vehicle of Najib.
Shahrol Azral, who was the ninth prosecution witness, said that 1MDB was a fool to have paid US$1 billion (RM4.1 billion) to obtain a 40 per cent stake in Petro Saudi Holdings (Cayman) Ltd, a joint venture subsidiary between 1MDB and PetroSaudi International Ltd (PSI), while PSI only injected US$108 million to get a 60 per cent share.
The third trial of Najib and 1MDB Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Arul Kanda Kandasamy over tampering of the 1MDB final audit report caught public attention after the court was told that an original copy of the 1MDB audit report was kept by audit director (Governance Sector) of the National Audit Department, Nor Salwani Muhammad.
The sole copy of the 1MDB report, which was not destroyed, is now the main evidence in the trial.
Apart from keeping the report, Nor Salwani had also secretly recorded a high-level meeting involving the chief secretary to the government where instructions to tamper the 1MDB audit report were allegedly issued.
The year 2019 also saw the Kuala Lumpur High Court making an order for a sum of RM4.901 million and RM100,000, which were allegedly linked to the 1MDB fund scandal, that were seized from Yayasan Permata Malaysia, and from the bank account of former Kuala Pilah MP Datuk Seri Hasan Malek, respectively, to be forfeited to the Malaysian government.
Last July 19, a total of RM48.9 million in the bank accounts of the father of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, was forfeited to the Malaysian government.
On November 26, businessman Tan Sri Bustari Yusof returned RM3,683,117.94, which was allegedly linked to the 1MDB financial scandal, to the Malaysian government.
On December 13, funds totalling RM407,011.46 in the bank account of a research foundation, Yayasan Penyelidikan Transformasi, was also forfeited to the Malaysian government.
Earlier this year, MACC chief commissioner Latheefa Koya had announced that civil forfeiture suits were filed against 41 respondents in a bid to recover about RM270 million in funds allegedly misappropriated from state-owned sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
The Kuala Lumpur court also witnessed the trial of several high-profile personalities, including former ministers for alleged graft, criminal breach of trust (CBT) and money laundering.
They included former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, former Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and former Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad.
Ahmad Zahid’s corruption trial involving Yayasan Akalbudi funds commenced on November 18, during which the court was told that he paid almost RM1.3 million for his four credit cards between January 2014 and January 2016, including on high-end shopping in the United Arab Emirates, United States, Italy, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Ukraine, Australia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Kuala Lumpur.
It was also disclosed that Ahmad Zahid and his wife Datin Seri Hamidah Khamis owned 20 vehicles, including three units of Toyota Vellfire, a Lexus LX 460, a Toyota Land Cruiser, a Honda Odyssey, a Chrysler Jeep Wrangler, a BMW 320i (A), an AUDI Q7, and a Mercedes Benz CLS 350.
The Umno president is also facing 40 other corruption charges relating to overseas visa system (VLN) that were filed at the Shah Alam court and the cases are still pending for transfer to the High Court for hearing.
On October 14, the High Court ordered Tengku Adnan to enter his defence on a charge of accepting a bribe of RM2 million from businessman Tan Sri Chai Kin Kong three years ago.
Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan made the ruling after finding that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing a prima facie case against him.
The court fixed January 10, 17, 20 and 21 next year for Tengku Adnan to rebut the charges against him.
The former minister was also tried on another charge with accepting RM1 million as a bribe to assist a company’s application to increase the plot ratio of development in Jalan Semarak, Kuala Lumpur.
Meanwhile, Mohd Isa was tried for a CBT charge and nine charges with accepting bribes totalling more than RM3 million in connection with the purchase of a hotel in Kuching, Sarawak, by Felda Investment Corporation (FIC).
Other cases that made headlines included on a sale promoter who was charged with reckless driving that caused a road accident, in which eight teenage cyclists were killed in Johor in 2017.
However, Magistrate Siti Hajar Ali, on October 28, acquitted and discharged Sam Ke Ting, 24, on the charge without calling for her defence, based on a number of factors, including the danger posed by the cyclists themselves, as they were using modified bicycles or “basikal lajak”.
In the incident on February 18, Sam, who was at the wheel of a Nissan Almera, ploughed into a group of teenaged cyclists, killing Muhammad Firdauz Danish Mohd Azhan, 16; Mohammad Azrie Danish Zulkefli, 14; Haizad Kasrin, 16; Muhammad Shahrul Nizam Maruddin, 14; Fauzan Halmijan, 13; Muhamad Shahrul Izzwan Azzuraimee, 14; Mohamad Azhar Amir,16; and Muhammad Harith Iskandar Abdullah,14.
Eight other boys were also injured in the incident.
Another high-profile trial that also captured public attention was on the murder of Cradle Fund chief executive officer (CEO) Nazrin Hassan.
Nazrin’s wife, Samirah Muzaffar, 44, and two male teenagers aged 17 and 14 were jointly charged with an Indonesian woman, who is still at large, with murdering him at a house in Mutiara Homes, Mutiara Damansara, between 11.30pm on June 13, 2018, and 4am on June 14, 2018.
They are charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 34 of the same law, and face the mandatory death sentence if found guilty.
The prosecution in their opening statement on Sept 6, told the Shah Alam High Court that they will prove Nazrin’s death was due to murder and was not caused by a fire.
This followed the outcome of a second post-mortem conducted three months after Nazrin’s death which found that the victim died from a blow of a blunt object on the head. — Bernama