Monday, May 16, 2022

‘Just confront him’: Judge, prosecution rap Najib’s defence over ‘irrelevant’ questions to witness

Lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram says the defence should do better to save the court’s time while judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah says the answers are already in the documents.

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The prosecution in Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial today questioned his defence team about posing irrelevant questions to former 1MDB non-executive director Ismee Ismail, who is the 13th prosecution witness.

Lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram told the High Court that the questions by Najib’s counsel Hariharan Tara Singh were not relevant and asked them to do better to save on court time.

“I don’t see the relevance. I have been very patient, if it’s going to be suggested, with all the documents put to him, there must be some relevance to the questions.

“So I will be very grateful if my learned friend can explain to us and His Lordship the relevance of questions which have already been put to Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi (former 1MDB CEO),” Sri Ram said.

Hariharan had asked Ismee during cross-examination about events involving Shahrol and former 1MDB executive director Casey Tang. 

The lawyer said the relevance of the questions was to show that Shahrol and Tang were the principal persons representing the 1MDB management in that particular transaction and that they were the ones who disobeyed the board of directors’ decision. 

“The defence wishes to establish that Shahrol and Tang acted against the board’s mandate. All we wanted to show is how these two persons manipulated the scheme and we were asking about the 1MDB board’s stand on it,” he added.

Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah then said that this would be fine if Ismee was being asked about what he knew.

“If he knows or if he has personal knowledge of whatever you ask him, that is good. But most of the things you put to him, he was not aware of it,” the judge said.

He said the answer was already in the documents and that the defence could change the questions by putting their suggestions in a straightforward manner for Ismee to agree or disagree to instead of repeating content already stated in the documents. 

“I don’t see any end in sight for the witness in the foreseeable future if it continues like this. Can we bring matters to a conclusion?” the judge asked. 

Sequerah also said the line of questioning seemed to be going around in circles and that the defence should just go for the jugular.

“Just confront him (Ismee) with what you want to put as your case and leave the rest for your submission,” he said. 

However, Najib’s lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said if the court found that the 1MDB trial was going in circles, it would be because of how Shahrol and others put things to confuse everyone.

“This is a very complicated case. This case shows that many documents and many transactions were involved. It is not an open and shut case,” he said.

Najib, 68, 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 tomorrow.

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