KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyer complained that the Man on the Run documentary on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) amounts to contempt of court amid the former prime minister’s ongoing 1MDB trial, and wants video streaming service Netflix to stop showing this documentary.
Before the 1MDB trial could resume this morning, Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah highlighted the contents of this 1MDB documentary, which he said started airing on Netflix on January 5 and that he had only managed to view it last night.
“But having seen this, Yang Arif, it’s about almost two hours’ programme, so I saw it right up until two o’clock in the morning. The programme, Yang Arif, was extremely sub judice and contemptuous,” Shafee told the High Court today.
Shafee went on to read out excerpts from the 1MDB documentary, such as interviewees’ remarks about Najib and now-fugitive Low Taek Jho about 1MDB.
The contentious remarks that Shafee highlighted to the High Court were a voiceover at the start of the documentary on those who allegedly aided Low; former attorney-general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas’s comments about Najib, Low and 1MDB including at around the 40-minute mark with remarks featuring words such as “puppet”; former US ambassador to Malaysia, John Malott’s remark which had referred to Najib as the “chairman” of 1MDB; retired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigator Charles W. O’Neal’s remark on 1MDB being a fraud that transpired because of Low’s and Najib’s alleged collaboration; and Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown’s remarks including comments that are allegedly inaccurate and comments that Shafee claimed impliedly refers to the murder of Kevin Morais.
Najib was the chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisers.
Shafee claimed he has listed about 160 of such excerpts but had only cited a few to show how contemptuous and sub judice the matters in the 1MDB documentary are.
Shafee however complimented one of the interviewees in the 1MDB documentary — financial publication The Edge’s publisher and group CEO Datuk Ho Kay Tat — for being very careful about his remarks.
Shafee then urged deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib to also quickly view the 1MDB documentary and to then “take the matter to attorney-general, to the MCMC as well as the Home Ministry that this programme be taken off from air in Netflix, which they can do, because this is completely contemptuous, over and above it being sub judice”.
“And the AG being the fountain of justice and the person who most guards the integrity of process in court, I think it’s his bounden duty to take immediate action,” Shafee said.
Akram then said he only got to know about this documentary this morning and has not viewed it, adding that he will first view it before seeing whether he has to report it to the attorney-general and get further instructions from the attorney-general.
After Akram suggested that Shafee write in to the relevant authorities such as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to alert them about the situation, Shafee said he will be writing in to both the MCMC and the home minister and would copy those communication to the attorney-general.
Shafee added that Najib has given him instructions to take legal action against former attorney-general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas and Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown over their comments in the 1MDB documentary.
“Separately, I’ve been instructed to take contempt action against Tan Sri Tommy Thomas and defamation action against Clare Rewcastle-Brown,” he said.
The Man on the Run documentary on 1MDB has been made available in Malaysia as early as October.
It was released in cinemas in Singapore on October 5, 2023, and was released in Malaysia’s cinemas on October 19, 2023. It was also released in cinemas in both the UK and the US in September 2023.
According to the listing in Netflix, Man on the Run is 1 hour and 38 minutes long.
Before his complaint on Man on the Run, Shafee this morning also complained about the 49th prosecution witness, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigating officer Senior Superintendent Nur Aida Arifin’s court testimony last Friday, where she had spoken about Najib’s vacation trip with his family on yachts in France in 2009 and how a discussion there was followed by a proposal for 1MDB to carry out a joint venture with PetroSaudi International.
Shafee went through the different sentences in Nur Aida’s court testimony last Friday and questioned her choice of words.
Shafee questioned how the MACC investigator had known that Najib’s family gathering eventually became a diplomatic discussion on a joint venture, arguing that she had “never interviewed” Najib, his wife, his daughter, his son and Saudi prince Prince Turki on this event.
Shafee also questioned how she had made her conclusion that the holiday meet became an official discussion and that Najib breached diplomacy rules through such conduct, saying that she should not be making opinions as it is for the court to make an opinion about the meeting.
As for Nur Aida’s remarks that no high-ranking government officials were present during the meeting on a yacht, Shafee criticised her remarks: “Yang Arif, they are having scone and jam for tea in that boat, why do you need to call somebody else which is basically a holiday, but during the holiday, a tea thing was done, if a matter was discussed that later became a government to government thing, that’s another story.
“But to say the prime minister who became a politician at the age of 24 and went through the experience from the lowest-ranking deputy minister, right up to being prime minister, a mere investigating officer is saying he doesn’t seem to know his diplomatic rules, that is very derogatory and completely uncalled for. A witness like the investigating officer should not be making statements like this,” he said, adding that the investigating officer was allegedly making statements on diplomatic matters which she has no experience in.
“I’m suggesting this entire paragraph to be completely expunged, because it doesn’t help the prosecution. It’s certainly a statement that is prejudicial to us as was caught by the newspaper reporting,” he said.
Akram then said the 49th prosecution witness Nur Aida had based her court testimony on documents such as two letters by Prince Turki and PetroSaudi International CEO in August 2009 which were addressed to Najib, and that she was not making conclusions but was “telling the court the outcome of her investigations”.
But Akram also said he had asked Nur Aida and that she agreed to partly expunge the paragraph, while suggesting to the court to keep certain sentences such as her comments that the discussion did not involve senior government officials, and that Najib’s family holiday meeting which turned into diplomatic joint venture discussions did not go through legitimate and formal discussion channels.
Shafee said both the August 2009 letters from Prince Turki and Tarek Obaid to Najib do not mention their prior meeting or discussion took place on a yacht, and claimed that it was not the yacht meeting that established the government-to-government (G2G) venture involving 1MDB and that such “G2G” matters only took place after the 2009 letters and also said there was allegedly no proof that Najib received such letters. He claimed Nur Aida had never shown the August 2009 letters to Najib during investigation and that meant he had no opportunity to comment whether the contents are correct.
Shafee however said he agrees for the entire paragraph to be changed to only mention the fact that there was a meeting between individuals such as Prince Turki, Tarek Obaid and Najib, noting that Najib’s special officer Datuk Wan Ahmad Shihab Wan Ismail had confirmed in court that such a meeting had taken place on the yacht.
“There is nothing prejudicial to the prosecution if what they want to impress is that Prince Turki, Tarek Obaid, Jho Low and Najib and family of Datuk Seri Najib was in the yacht of that day. That we can agree, because Wan Shihab testified to that, so it is no longer hearsay,” Shafee said.
After hearing arguments from both sides regarding Nur Aida’s paragraph regarding Najib’s family’s yacht holiday in 2009 and the meeting that took place then, trial judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah decided to expunge the entire paragraph — except for the fact that the meeting had occurred — to avoid prolonging the matter.
“I think to avoid this matter from just continuing further, I think I will just place on record that a meeting took place, the first part, with the personalities on the yacht, we leave it at that, the rest to be expunged,” he said.
The trial then continued with Nur Aida resuming her testimony.
Najib’s 1MDB trial resumes this afternoon.