The prosecution has objected to applications by Najib and his family to inspect items seized during the government’s 1MDB investigation, citing security issues as well as not setting a precedent for other money-laundering accused to seek similar inspections.
Objecting on security grounds, deputy public prosecutor Fatnin Yusof said the application, if allowed, would also open the floodgates in future forfeiture applications.
Fatnin also informed the court that there was no specific provision under the law to allow an accused in a money-laundering case to inspect the seized items.
“We, the respondents, object to these (inspection) applications (by Najib, Rosmah and Nooryana Najwa) because there is no specific provision (for the applications).
“We do not wish to open the floodgates for accused in other Amla (Anti-Money Laundering Act) cases (to seek inspection of items seized during a money-laundering investigation).
“This is a test case (by the applicants) as the seizure was made under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act,” Fatnin submitted before judge Mohd Zaini Mazlan.
Fatnin added that in the past, there had never been any applications by interested parties to physically inspect seized items.
“We are prepared to give them video recordings and photographs of the seized items,” she said.
Justice Zaini then told the prosecution that many items, including 50 watches among others, were seized from three locations, and the applicants should be given the right to prepare for their defence the best they can by inspecting the items.
The judge said that the trio’s line of defence was that, at the very least, some of the items were gifts given to them and the court may need to give them every available opportunity to prepare for their defence.
Investigating officer Foo Wei Min, who has affirmed an affidavit on Aug 15, said a physical inspection was not required and not practical.
In the sworn document, the police officer said the valuables were kept in a vault at a secret location in Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and could only be accessed by authorised bank officers.
“Due to the confidentiality and security status of the vault, any inspection must not be allowed,” Foo said, adding that BNM was unlikely to allow any attempt to inspect the items kept in the vault.
He added that if the items were to be inspected elsewhere, it would result in logistics problem.
After Fatnin had submitted, Zaini remarked that should he allow the application, the physical examination could be conducted in the presence of the police.
“On security, it is within your (the prosecution’s) control. You can state when the inspection is to be done on a certain day and certain room where only the applicants are in that room (for example), for four hours. You (the prosecution) can station every personnel there to ensure security.
“It is within your control. It is not allowing them to bring them (the seized items) home (after inspection). It is just to allow them to inspect. In the end, it is up to me whether to believe (in Najib, Rosmah and Nooryana Najwa’s defence) or not,” Zaini said.
“We are talking about fairness. In my court, every accused must be given all opportunity to ventilate their defence.
“Anyway, those who will be inspecting the items are not terrorists,” he added.
Fatnin also said that the inspection could lead to a depreciation in the value of the items as they needed delicate handling and care.
To this, the judge said the applicants could be present, but the inspection could be recorded.
Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the physical inspection was important for his client to verify the items.
“A closer scrutiny of the items will show from whom the gifts came from,” he said, adding that the parties could sit and take notes as the valuables were produced.
Shafee said the inspection is a must as the police did not provide a search list after the valuables were seized and the application must be allowed in the interest of justice.
Shafee said security could still be maintained by the police and Bank Negara because there was a special hall in the central bank called “Sasana Kijang” where the inspection could be done safely.
Shafee argued that outsiders were allowed to inspect and value the items following their seizure in 2018 and no problems emerged from there. Therefore, the question of security in the inspection of the items by his client should not arise.
Lawyers Iskandar Shah Ibrahim, Azamuddin Abd Aziz and Hasmadi Hussin, who are appearing for Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor and their daughter Nooryana Najwa Najib adopted Shafee’s submission.
Zaini will deliver his ruling on Feb 3.
“I have spoken based on common sense, but my decision must be guided by law,” he added.
In their applications, Najib, Rosmah and Nooryana are asking to physically inspect the items seized by the police as the photographs provided to them earlier by the prosecution are “not clear”.
On Oct 14, the prosecution agreed to provide colour pictures of the seized items, as well as their detailed descriptions – such as the product labels, logos, gift cards and packaging. The items were seized on May 17, 2018.
Among the items are 315 handbags of various luxury brands, 14 watches and 27 pairs of shoes of various brands, as well as cash in various currencies, including RM537,000, £2,700, 2,870,000 Sri Lanka rupees, RM187,750 in old notes and £320,500.