KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) trial at the High Court today kicked off with a heated exchange between Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Mohamad Hanadzlah and Najib’s lead counsel over the former minister’s involvement in 1MDB.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Ahmad Husni was asked earlier to clarify his involvement over the signing of a document during his stint as the second finance minister from April 2009 until his voluntary resignation in June 2016.

The aforementioned document referred to the proposed amendments to Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) Berhad’s memorandum and articles of association (M&A) — otherwise known as the company’s constitution — and its approval.

The state investment firm had started out as the Terengganu state government-owned TIA, but was later acquired by the federal government to be fully owned by the Finance Ministry’s Minister of Finance Incorporated (MOF Inc) and was then renamed in September 2009 to be 1MDB.

In his reply, the prosecution’s 20th witness said all letters pertaining to SRC International Sdn Bhd and 1MDB were handled by the finance minister at the time, which was Najib, in a departure from conventional protocols.

“In the case of SRC International Sdn Bhd and 1MDB, it doesn’t follow the standard operating procedures for all companies under the MoF Inc in the Finance Ministry.

“So, it all comes from the top and for me (as second finance minister) to sign,” he said, adding that this was procedural in accordance with the now-defunct official sign off, “Saya yang menurut perintah” (“I who obey orders”), used in official government documents.

When pressed further by Muhammad Shafee if this meant his opinion did not matter, Ahmad Husni replied in the affirmative.

“Ya, because it says, saya yang menurut perintah. It all comes from the top, so what else can I do?” he replied.

However, Muhammad Shafee said Ahmad Husni was not answering his question on the verification process for document approvals from government-linked companies before they ended up on Ahmad Husni’s table.

Ahmad Husni: You’ve never worked (in the ministry), you don't know anything. You must understand.

At this time, Ahmad Husni attempted to explain the sequence of approval process in its entirety before Muhammad Shafee interjected.

Muhammad Shafee: I understand what you said. I asked you a question and you answer the question. You don't quarrel, you don't be arrogant.

Ahmad Husni: I'm not quarrelling.

At this juncture trial judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah stepped in to defuse the situation and asked Ahmad Husni to answer Muhammad Shafee’s question.

Sequerah also said the lawyer has a duty to put forward their case, after reassuring Ahmad Husni he would have the “final say” during re-examination by prosecutors.

“Even he (Muhammad Shafee) has a duty also kena (need to be) honest la.

“Ya, I am answering his question, I said: saya yang menurut perintah. What else he wants?” Ahmad Husni said.

After the situation calmed, Muhammad Shafee proceeded to ask Ahmad Husni whether there were explicit instructions for him to sign the documents.

In reply, Ahmad Husni said he was acquainted with Najib for over 40 years and “knew” him very well and had told Najib that 1MDB should not be formed without a feasibility study to evaluate financial risks and ensure that the government would gain from investments.

Ahmad Husni: He (Najib) told me, ‘I will continue’. I know that the power is with him (Najib), I must listen.

This prompted Muhammad Shafee to interrupt again and insist Ahmad Husni was not answering his question.

The lawyer then cited Ahmad Husni’s earlier testimony of not knowing what Najib was “thinking” when the latter had appointed him as the second finance minister, in contradiction to his knowledge of knowing Najib “very well”.

Ahmad Husni then sought to explain that both were separate matters entirely involving his appointment and 1MDB.

Shafee, who appeared exasperated, then told the court he could take up to three days to cross-examine Husni if the latter maintained his “attitude”, which the lawyer claimed was first displayed during the SRC International trial in which Najib was convicted on all charges.

“One year also can,” Ahmad Husni retorted.

Noting the escalating hostility, Sequerah then ordered for the court to take a short recess for both sides to regain their composure, before hearing resumed 10 minutes later.