Saturday, December 4, 2021

Court dismisses 1MDB-linked forfeiture suit against Najib and family

The judge says the AGC failed to prove the nexus between the properties seized and the unlawful activities.

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The High Court in Kuala Lumpur today dismissed the government’s application to forfeit luxury items seized from former prime minister Najib Razak, his wife Rosmah Mansor, their children and several others.

The items, including handbags of various brands, 27 vehicles and cash in various currencies seized from Najib, Rosmah, their three children and five other respondents, were allegedly linked to the 1MDB scandal.

Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, in dismissing the application by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to forfeit the items, said the AGC had failed to prove the nexus between the properties seized and the unlawful activities.

“The properties seized from Najib, Rosmah, their two children, Nor Ashman Razak and Nooryana Najwa, as well as Najib’s stepson, Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, were seized from premises occupied or previously occupied by them and they are in any event, from the same family.

“No evidence has been proferred to show that the properties seized from the five respondents were bought using the monies in Najib’s bank account. The applicant (AGC) had in fact admitted that some of the properties seized were gifts,” said the judge.

Zaini said the applicant had merely listed down the properties seized and their value and, in turn, concluded that the five respondents did not have the means to have such a huge amount of cash or to purchase these properties based on their income, or the lack of it.

“It is apparent that the applicant had only come to this conclusion based on presumption and it is insufficient as the applicant needs to credibly prove a direct link between the monies that were allegedly illegally gained to the cash found and the properties bought,” he said.

The judge also rejected the application to forfeit a bungalow erected on two plots of land in Tanjung Bungah Park, Penang, as well as the money kept in three Hong Leong bank accounts owned by the 13th respondent, Goh Gaik Ewe, who is the mother of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.

“The applicant had merely shown money credited into the bank accounts but did not provide any evidence on how these bank accounts were related to or used for the commission of the unlawful activities.

“The relationship between the 13th respondent and any of the characters or entities in the 1MDB affair was conspicuously missing and there were many glaring discrepancies in the affidavits by the investigating officers which were never corrected or explained,” he said.

The government also failed to forfeit monies kept in seven bank accounts belonging to the 14th and 15th respondent, ex-Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng and his wife, Lim Hwee Bin, on a similar finding that the applicant had not provided evidence that the bank accounts were related to or used for the commission of unlawful activities.

“The applicant also did not offer any evidence to show how the monies deposited into these bank accounts were linked to any illegal transaction… I am inclined to agree with their counsel and therefore dismiss the application,” said Zaini.

The court also denied the government’s request to forfeit 26 Nissan Urvans and a Nissan X-Trail owned by the seventh and eighth respondent named in the forfeiture suit, a management consultancy services company, Senijauhar Sdn Bhd and an individual named Aiman Ruslan.

Deputy public prosecutor Harris Ong Mohd Jeffery Ong informed the court that the AGC will be appealing against the ruling.

Meanwhile, the court allowed the government’s bid to forfeit the assets from eight other respondents as they did not contest the application, namely Mohd Kyizzad Mesran, Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia, Yayasan Semesta, Yayasan Mustika Kasih, Rembulan Kembara Sdn Bhd and three former 1MDB officers who have absconded, Kee Kok Thiam, Tan Vern Tact and Geh Choh Hun.

On May 8, 2019, the AGC filed a notice of motion to forfeit hundreds of items allegedly linked to the 1MDB scandal, including handbags of various brands and 27 vehicles seized from Najib, Rosmah, their three children, as well as 13 individuals and companies.

Money amounting to more than RM18 million in several bank accounts at Bank Islam Malaysia, Al-Rajhi Bank, Malayan Banking, CIMB Bank, RHB Bank, Public Bank, AmBank and Hong Leong Bank frozen between Aug 16, 2018, and March 11, 2019, was also involved.

In the forfeiture notice, the prosecution named Najib, Rosmah, their children Nor Ashman, Riza Shahriz and Nooryana Najwa; Kyizzad; Senijauhar; Aiman; Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia; Yayasan Semesta; Mustika Kasih Foundation; Rembulan Kembara Sdn Bhd; Goh, Ng and Lim and three former 1MDB officers, Kee, Tan and Geh Choh Hun as the first to 18th respondents.

Among the items mentioned in the notice are handbags, shoes and watches of various brands, as well as cash in various currencies seized by the police on May 17, 2018, and June 11, 2018, as well as 27 vehicles seized on Aug 2, 2018, and a piece of land in Tanjung Bungah, Penang.

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