Subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates on news you need to know.
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 16 — The High Court today rejected former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s bid to postpone his 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption trial over more than RM2 million of 1MDB funds.
Najib’s defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah this morning applied to the High Court to defer the 1MDB trial, citing the need to provide time for Najib’s lawyers to prepare court documents by a March 1 deadline for the April hearing of his appeal in the Court of Appeal against his conviction and sentencing in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case involving RM42 million.
Shafee also urged the High Court in Kuala Lumpur to postpone the 1MDB trial as Najib’s lawyers were seeking documents through the US courts to obtain information on alleged bribery of 1MDB officials by Goldman Sachs, which Shafee said would affect how Najib’s lawyers cross-examine prosecution witnesses.
In rejecting the bid, judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah noted that Najib’s lawyers could recall any prosecution witnesses to be questioned again if needed, if there is any related information as a result from the US court matter.
“As far as the US proceedings are concerned, they can carry on. I will allow every opportunity and leeway for the defence to recall as and when the (US) proceedings conclude, whatever revelations, so that will not be an issue.
“As for SRC, I just want to make a point that I have deferred to SRC at the trial stage and I’m going to defer to SRC at the Court of Appeal,” the judge said, referring to how he had gave way for the SRC trial to proceed first and also how the 1MDB trial would not proceed in April on the dates overlapping with the SRC appeal hearing dates.
“We have got only these three days, I have to proceed with the case. I do sympathise with your situation, but I have to proceed with the case, because this court has got very limited dates, so can we proceed with the trial and we have to resume in May,” the judge added.
The judge then asked for the 1MDB trial to proceed, with the 10th prosecution witness Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman then taking the witness stand to resume testifying and to be cross-examined by Najib’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed.
The three days referred by the judge are today until Thursday (February 16 to February 18), which are the only remaining scheduled trial dates in February.
The next scheduled trial dates for the 1MDB case were initially on April 5 to 8, 19 to 22, 26 to 28; May 3 to 6, 17 to 20, 24 to 27; June 1 to 3, 8 to 10, 21 to 24, 28 to 30; and July 5 to 8.
But with the SRC appeal hearing dates rescheduled from February and March to dates in April (April 5 to 8, April 12 to 15, April 19 to 22), this means that the 1MDB trial will resume on May 3 and will not proceed in April.
“Besides this week, March... I believe we don’t have dates for 1MDB; April... I have to give up dates fixed for the Court of Appeal, so we can only resume, if at all, after that,” the judge said today.
Earlier, while seeking for a postponement of the 1MDB trial, Shafee said the Court of Appeal had decided to hear the SRC appeal in April, despite his suggested alternative of June.
Shafee pointed out the amount of documents involved in the SRC appeal, with 117 volumes of records of appeal that, he said, each numbered 200 pages, in addition to the High Court’s 801-page judgement.
Shafee said his team of lawyers had only received the 48 volumes of notes of proceedings on February 8, but that Najib’s defence is required to file their written submissions by March 1.
Asking for “compassion”, Shafee said the same team of defence lawyers were working on both the 1MDB trial and SRC appeal, while also noting that the SRC appeal would begin in April with preparation work also required to cross-examine prosecution witnesses in the 1MDB trial.
“If Yang Arif would give us a break now so that we can prepare for SRC. I know Yang Arif would have to sacrifice three days, just three days, but those three days to us are monumental in the preparation of SRC,” Shafee had said, referring to the 1MDB trial dates of today until Thursday.
Shafee’s application to postpone the 1MDB trial was not only regarding this week’s dates, but he had also sought to have the entire trial deferred until the US courts decide on Najib’s bid to obtain information there on the alleged bribing of 1MDB officials by Goldman Sachs.
“Because the ultimate conclusion at the end of what I’m going to tell Yang Arif is an application to have this matter postponed until such time when our main application in the US has taken place and a decision is made,” Shafee said, adding that certain witnesses in the 1MDB trial may have to be recalled.
Shafee said Najib had on November 17, 2020 filed an application in the US courts in New York to ask Goldman Sachs and former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner to reveal the names of 1MDB officials whom they had allegedly bribed, following Leissner’s admission — while pleading guilty in US court proceedings against him and Goldman Sachs — to having bribed such officials.
“So the disclosure of these names will make it absolutely relevant for us to peruse in our cross-examination of these witnesses. Apart from showing that they are lacking in credibility, we will also be able to show that they are in fact instruments of Jho Low. And instruments of Jho Low will include people like Tim Leissner and Goldman Sachs who may be working in tandem in order to penetrate and corrupt 1MDB and using 1MDB money for various purposes,” he said.
Shafee said the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has since then filed an application to intervene in Najib’s disclosure application in the courts in New York and had also applied for a stay of Najib’s application there.
Shafee said the DoJ had wanted a stay of Najib’s bid to seek the disclosure of 1MDB officials allegedly bribed by Goldman Sachs as the trial of another former Goldman Sachs banker, Roger Ng, is coming up in the US courts, around the months of June to August.
Subsequently, Shafee disagreed with this as he said Ng’s trial is unrelated to the matter.
Shafee said Najib’s lawyers are objecting to the US DoJ’s bid to stay his discovery application, due to it being “extremely urgent” in relation to Najib’s ongoing 1MDB trial in Malaysia.
Arguing that Najib should be given full access to all relevant materials to ensure a fair trial, Shafee at one point also claimed that Najib had no knowledge how money was transmitted globally and “if ever it landed in his account, he has no knowledge and he’s not a participant”.
Shafee claimed that his team of lawyers found information that allegedly showed that Low had purportedly penetrated certain members of 1MDB and members of the present and previous government, with payments purportedly made by Leissner to Ng and then to Ng’s brother-in-law before ending up in a company.
He then argued again for the 1MDB trial’s postponement to wait for Najib’s lawyers to obtain materials through the US courts to use in cross-examining 1MDB trial witnesses in Malaysian courts.
Shafee said Najib’s lawyers had also applied under the Freedom of Information Act to seek information from the US Securities and Exchange Commission, noting that the latter had replied to say that it had identified about 2,000 boxes of records that may be relevant to the request.
Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib said the information that Najib is seeking in the US courts is not relevant to and does not form part of the prosecution’s case in the 1MDB trial.
He added that Najib can pursue his application in the US courts without the 1MDB trial in Malaysia having to be postponed.
“The discovery sought by Datuk Seri Najib in New York — documents from Tim Leissner and Goldman Sachs — to be used in this trial to impeach certain witnesses ... To us, that can go on in New York, whatever they want to do in New York, can go on, because we don’t want to interfere with whatever procedures in New York, because we are not party there, the parties there are Datuk Seri Najib, Tim Leissner and Goldman Sachs.
“Therefore, they can ask for whatever documents they want there, but as far as we are concerned here, the trial should go on with the witnesses as much as the trial can be done, apart from the documents that may be received by the defence,” he said.
“However, since there is an application filed in New York, and it’s important to the defence, preparation of defence of the accused person in light of fair trial, I leave it to court to decide whether it should be adjourned or whether it is supposed to be continued,” Akram had said.
After hearing both Shafee and Akram, the judge then decided that the 1MDB trial will go on instead of being deferred to wait for the US court proceedings.