KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s trial over the misappropriation of over RM2 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) funds could not go on at all today, as there were no available prosecution witnesses who could come to court after the initial scheduled witness fell ill.
Earlier today, the High Court was told that the 12th prosecution witness and 1MDB’s former chief financial officer Azmi Tahir — who was originally scheduled to testify today — had received a sick leave certificate after developing a fever. However, the prosecution said Azmi’s condition was not related to Covid-19.
Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib this morning said he had tried to call five other prosecution witnesses to appear in court today to testify after finding out this morning that Azmi could not attend, but said all such witnesses were unavailable at such short notice.
The reasons given for the five other witnesses being unavailable included being overseas, being under quarantine after an overseas trip, being sick, having a scheduled Covid-19 booster shot or having work commitments.
High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah had then asked the prosecution to continue contacting other prosecution witnesses to see if they could come to court today, and had then deferred the court proceedings to 2.30pm for updates on the witnesses’ availability.
When the court proceedings resumed at 2.48pm, Akram said that no prosecution witnesses could come today as it was on short notice.
“As per the direction of the court this morning, the prosecution has tried to call witnesses to come to court and testify this afternoon.
“However, Yang Arif, I’m sorry, I apologise for this, we cannot get any of them to come on a very short notice of a few hours, because most of them are still working and have their own matters to attend to, these cannot be postponed at the very last minute.
“Therefore, I humbly apply for the trial to be vacated for today, and we have January 26 and January 27 for continuation, for which I have already prepared four witnesses to be on standby.
“And if anything happens like this, we will have backup, not like today. I apologise for this,” he said, having listed the four prosecution witnesses on standby for January 26 and January 27 as Azmi, the 13th prosecution witness and former 1MDB director Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, former 1MDB chairman Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh and Najib’s former special officer Datuk Wan Ahmad Shihab Wan Ismail.
The judge then said: “Thanks for making the effort, I suppose we don’t have any choice but to vacate today’s proceedings, and see you all on January 26.”
Yesterday, Azmi had also told the High Court that he was feeling “under the weather” during cross-examination in the afternoon by Najib’s lawyer Datuk Hariharan Tara Singh.
The 1MDB trial had gone on for more than 80 days yesterday. It was also the fourth day that Azmi was on the witness stand.
Apart from today, Najib’s 1MDB trial is also scheduled to proceed on January 26 and January 27, as Najib is expected to testify next week as a defence witness in his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s defence in her corruption trial of alleged soliciting and receiving of millions of ringgit in bribes.
Trial dates for Najib’s 1MDB trial have also been scheduled to take place every month from March to December this year, except for July.