Wednesday, March 3, 2021

High Court rejects Najib’s bid to postpone 1MDB trial

Najib had sought to delay the trial pending attempts to obtain the names of 1MDB officials said to have received bribes from Goldman Sachs.

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The Kuala Lumpur High Court today rejected Najib Razak’s bid to postpone the ongoing 1MDB trial pending a legal bid in a US court.

Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had earlier told the court that his client was seeking to obtain the names of 1MDB officials who allegedly received bribes from Goldman Sachs Group Inc and its former director Tim Leissner.

“In the proceedings in the US court, where Leissner and Goldman Sachs pleaded guilty, Leissner had actually said and admitted to the fact that he had paid in terms of bribes to several officials in 1MDB.

“They admitted to the act of bribery and we have therefore filed a discovery application and asked Leissner and Goldman Sachs to reveal the names of those whom they bribed,” he said, adding that the application which was made pursuant to the US Code (USC) was filed on Nov 17 last year.

Shafee also said the disclosure of the names was relevant to the defence’s case to show that the witnesses lacked credibility and that they were in fact instruments of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.

“The defence could also show that Jho Low, Leissner and Goldman Sachs had been working in tandem in order to penetrate and corrupt 1MDB, using the money from the company for various purposes.

“Upon obtaining the relevant documents in the application, we also planned to recall several witnesses, including former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi and Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, the former special officer to the former prime minister, to be cross-examined.

“This (discovery) is extremely relevant because I have asked Shahrol Azral pertaining to why he simply followed what Jho Low said.

“Likewise you will find quite a shocking revelation by Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman (current prosecution witness) because he was told that he must follow Jho Low’s instructions,” he said.

Shafee said all this would have bearing on whether the characters had received illicit payments, which is the subject matter of the disclosure in the proceedings of Leissner and Goldman Sachs in the US.

Shafee also sought a deferral of the 1MDB trial, saying the defence needed more time to prepare for the hearing of Najib’s appeal against his conviction and sentence in the SRC International case at the Court of Appeal.

“We are supposed to put in our written submissions by March 1,” he said.

Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib said the prosecution’s concern was for the trial to go on, adding that it would not interfere in the application in the US as it was not a party to it.

“However, since the application in the US is important to the defence, we leave it to the court to decide whether the trial should be adjourned or continue,” he said.

After hearing submissions from both parties, High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah rejected the application for the postponement, but vacated the trial dates set in April.

“The defence can recall any prosecution witness to be questioned again if there is a need, or if there is any related information on the matter at the US court. We have only these three days in this week. I do sympathise with your situation, but we have to proceed with the 1MDB corruption trial,” the judge said.

The trial then continued with the cross-examination of the 10th prosecution witness, Hazem, by lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed.

Najib, 67, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

The trial continues.

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