High Court denies Najib’s bid to postpone ongoing 1MDB trial

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The Kuala Lumpur High Court has rejected former prime minister Najib Razak’s bid to postpone the ongoing 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial pending a legal bid in a United States court.

Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had earlier told the court that his client was seeking to get 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 that they had bribed,” he said, adding that the application which was made pursuant to the United States Code (USC) was filed on November 17 last year.

Muhammad Shafee said the disclosure of the names was relevant to the defence’s case to show that the witnesses lack 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 and 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.

All this, he said, will have bearing on whether all the characters have been receiving illicit payments, which is the subject matter of the disclosure in the proceedings of Leissner and Goldman Sachs in the US.

Muhammad Shafee was also seeking for the court to defer the 1MDB trial as the defence needed more time to prepare for the hearing of Najib’s appeal against his conviction and sentence in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case at the Court of Appeal.

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

Meanwhile, deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib said the prosecution’s concern was for the trial to go on and that the prosecution would not interfere in the application in the US as they were not a party in 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 continued,” he added.

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

“The defence could 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,” said the judge.

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

Najib, 67, is facing 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.