High Court refuses Najib’s bid for Zeti’s family-linked documents as well as ‘fishing expedition’ on Goldman Sachs documents for 1MDB trial

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak leaves the High Court in Kuala Lumpur May 17,2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak leaves the High Court in Kuala Lumpur May 17,2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — The High Court today dismissed former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s two separate applications for the prosecution to provide documents related to companies under former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Seri Zeti Akhtar Aziz’s family, as well as US investment bank Goldman Sachs’ documents in Hong Kong.

Najib sought these documents to defend himself against criminal charges in his ongoing trial involving more than RM2 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds. His lawyer previously insisted that Najib’s defence was that he “genuinely” believed the huge sums of funds that flowed into his bank account came from Saudi Arabia.

In dismissing both applications today, High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah described Najib’s application for discovery of Goldman Sachs documents as a “fishing expedition”, news portal theedgemarkets.com reported.

In Najib’s first application filed on March 24, he asked for bank account statements from 2008 to 2020 for eight entities (companies linked to Zeti’s family — Iron Rhapsody Limited, Cutting Edge Industries Limited, companies linked to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho — Aktis Capital Singapore Private Limited, Country Group Securities Public Company Limited, ACME Time Ltd (BVI), as well as Butamba Investment Limited, Central Holding Limited and law firm Sherman and Sterling LLC).

The Pekan MP also asked for company information of the eight entities such as their directors, their members, their beneficiary owners and records of their communications with banks on transactions and their accounts and other related bank documents.

In his second application filed on April 5, he asked for former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner’s Hong Kong mobile phones and these mobile phones’ transcript and passwords, data on Goldman Sachs’ servers.

These included communications and data on Leissner’s work mobile phones, the 2020 settlement agreement between Goldman Sachs and the Malaysian government, all communications including correspondence between the Malaysian government and Attorney-General’s Chambers with Goldman Sachs.

Deputy public prosecutor Mohamad Mustaffa P. Kunyalam, who was present today when the decision was delivered in court, said the judge disallowed Najib’s bid for the settlement agreement between Goldman Sachs and the Malaysian government as it amounted to a “fishing expedition”. 

Among other things, he said the High Court view was that the public prosecutor cannot be directed on how to conduct the prosecution’s case and that the public prosecutor would determine the type of documents to be used by prosecution during trial.

As for Najib’s application for documents relating to Zeti’s family, Mustaffa said the High Court held that Zeti is not on trial and that Najib’s application amounts to a “collateral attack” against a prosecution witness.

The court today also held that the Zeti’s family-linked documents that were being sought by Najib are not relevant to the charges that he is facing in the 1MDB trial.

Previously at the May 31 hearing of Najib’s two applications on the documents linked to Zeti’s family’s companies and Goldman Sachs, lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram had pointed out that Najib is the one on trial in the 1MDB case and that Zeti is not the one on trial.

Zeti is in the prosecution’s list of witnesses who is expected to testify in Najib’s 1MDB trial, but has yet to be called to testify.

Sri Ram had also previously argued that Najib’s lawyers could still ask Zeti about the documents even though the prosecution views these as not relevant to the charges in the 1MDB trial, describing the application as a “collateral attack”.

Sri Ram had at that time said the prosecution does not have the Goldman Sachs data and mobile phones in its possession and control, and that asking the prosecution to go to Hong Kong to collect such materials for Najib would mean asking the prosecution to perform his defence lawyers’ duties.

Among other things, Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had during the May 31 hearing said the documents being sought for were relevant to his client’s defence that he was not even aware as prime minister and finance minister of the alleged misappropriation of 1MDB funds by 1MDB management purportedly in tandem and in alleged conspiracy with Low.

Najib’s 1MDB trial, which is also before Sequerah, has recently been disrupted by the lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic and also by his lead defence lawyer having to undergo Covid-19 quarantine.

The 1MDB trial is expected to resume on the next scheduled date of August 17. Mustaffa today confirmed to Malay Mail that the trial is still expected to proceed on that date.

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