1MDB trial raises questions on prosecution’s possible witnesses

About 60 prosecution witnesses have been prepared to testify against Najib

by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

THE scale and complexity of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal has raised questions on the possible witnesses to be called for the trial.

The prosecution aims to prove that former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak had siphoned billions in his bank account, channelling money to associates and misusing his power concerning 1MDB funds.

One name is accused of being his alter ego in orchestrating one of the world’s largest financial larcenies — none other than the infamous Jho Low.

Lead appointed prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram said his team will establish facts that will give rise to an irresistible inference that Jho Low and Najib had acted as one at all material times.

Najib is facing 21 counts of money laundering involving RM4.3 billion (received and transferred) and four counts of corruption involving RM2.3 billion, which were owned by the so-called Malaysian strategic development company.

He pleaded not guilty.

The defence, led by Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, asserted that Najib was misled and Jho Low, whose real name is Low Taek Jho, was the perpetrator behind the 1MDB fraud.

About 60 prosecution witnesses have been prepared to testify in the Kuala Lumpur High Court against Najib.

A few of them were witnesses in Najib’s SRC International Sdn Bhd trial.

Some of the star witnesses’ statements are said to be extensive, with more than 250 pages.

The SRC trial, which heard testimonies from a total of 57 prosecution witnesses and had hardly over 80 pages of witness statements, took 57 days of hearing in almost five months.

For this 1MDB trial, one can expect the proceedings to take at least half a year to complete.

Five days into the trial, the hearing has shifted into high gear as Najib’s

former special officer Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin testified in court over the 1MDB dealings, which among others revealed that Jho Low had supplied “official documents” and talking points to him and Azlin to counter the negative claims against 1MDB when the scandal broke in late 2014.

Amhari Efendi, who is the prosecution’s eighth witness, also told the High Court how Najib had secretly instructed him to go to the United Arab Emirates to facilitate debt settlement negotiation between 1MDB and International Petroleum Investment Co.

The witness said Najib had instructed him to meet Mubadala Investment Co CEO Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak in Abu Dhabi in 2016 to convince the company not to drag 1MDB to the International Court of Arbitration due to debt arrears under a binding term sheet agreement.

His cross-examination is expected to continue this week, and following that, the first 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is expected to testify as well.

Shahrol Azral was blamed by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for the company’s mismanagement and weaknesses in 2016.

According to the PAC report, he proceeded with AmInvestment Bank Bhd to issue 1MDB’s first debt papers amounting to RM5 billion despite disapproval from the board.

Shahrol Azral had once denied any wrongdoing or illegal activity in 1MDB under his watch.

He relinquished his CEO position on March 15, 2013, at a time when 1MDB’s debt stood at RM36 billion.

Hours after PAC tabled the report at the Parliament, 1MDB announced its board of directors had collectively offered their resignations to the Minister of Finance Inc.