Malaysia ex-PM Najib wants US to disclose names of bribed 1MDB officials, fails to halt trial

Najib Razak is currently being tried for four criminal charges in bribery.
Najib Razak is currently being tried for four criminal charges in bribery.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak had applied to the United States court to obtain the names of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) officials who were bribed by a former partner of Goldman Sachs Group in Asia.

His lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said their names would help the defence prove that the prosecution witnesses lacked credibility and were merely instruments of fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, the Kuala Lumpur High Court was told. Low, who was perceived to be the mastermind behind the 1MDB scandal, has been in hiding since 2016.

Najib, who faces 42 counts of corruption and money laundering related to the 1MDB scandal, is currently being tried for four criminal charges in bribery totalling RM2.28 billion (S$746.8 million) and 21 other charges of money laundering involving the same amount. He was convicted on seven charges by the Malaysian High Court in July 2020. He is appealing his conviction.

Tan Sri Shafee had sought to postpone the trial this week to allow the defence time to seek documents from the US court. But Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah denied his application and ordered for the trial to continue.

Mr Shafee said information on the alleged bribery of 1MDB officials by former Goldman official Tim Leissner would have a huge impact on the current trial. The defence had submitted a request for documents and testimony for such information through a Manhattan court on Nov 17, 2020.

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

"We have therefore filed a discovery application and asked Leissner and Goldman Sachs to reveal the names of those that they have bribed," Mr Shafee said.

He said the defence planned to recall several witnesses, including former 1MDB chief executive Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, to the stand for cross-examination upon obtaining the relevant documents from the US application.

"This (discovery) is extremely relevant because I have asked Shahrol pertaining to why he simply follows what Jho Low says.

"Likewise, you will find quite a shocking revelation by ex-1MDB CEO Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman (current witness) because he was told that he must follow (instructions from Jho Low)," he added.

Mr Shafee said this had bearing as to whether the witnesses in the trial had been receiving illicit payments, which was the subject matter of the disclosure in the proceedings of Leissner and Goldman Sachs in the US.

He also asked that the current trial be postponed so that the defence would have time to prepare for the documents needed in a separate hearing in April, in which Najib is appealing his conviction in the SRC International case.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib said the prosecution would not interfere in the application in the US as it was not a party to it and its only concern was for the trial to move forward.

"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," Mr Akram said.

Justice Sequerah then rejected the postponement application but vacated the trial dates set in April.

"I do sympathise with your situation but we have to proceed," he said to Mr Shafee.

The judge also said that the defence could recall any prosecution witnesses for cross-examination if the need arises from matters relating to the US court application.

The trial continues with Mr Hazem on the stand.

On a separate matter, Mr Shafee told the press outside of court that the defence had filed a notice of appeal yesterday against a separate High Court decision that dismissed Najib's application to have Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram recused from leading the 1MDB audit tampering trial prosecution team.

"We are appealing because we have got an overwhelming reason to say that the disqualification of Sri Ram is almost inevitable," he said.