Limited seats in Najib’s 1MDB trial as court complies with COVID-19 SOP


THE High Court hearing Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s (picture) 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)’s case have to restrict the number of prosecutors and lawyers in the courtroom as the court has to comply with the standard operating procedure (SOP) to prevent COVID-19 infection.

Yesterday, Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had requested to the court to allow more members of the defence team to be in the proceedings.

Today, lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram informed Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah that he needed Deputy Public Prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib to sit beside him in the court to assist him with exhibits during examinations on witnesses.

Justice Sequerah, however, rejected both requests, saying that the court has to abide by the SOP for COVID-19.

Sri Ram then told the judge that a message from the chief registrar stated that the judge could use his discretion in such matters.

“In that case, I’m refusing to exercise my discretion. I will stick with the direction now. Please write to the Chief Judge of Malaya,” said Justice Sequerah.

Muhammad Shafee later told the judge that both defence and prosecution will send a joint letter to the Chief Judge of Malaya today to request to have more lawyers in the courtroom, as currently only three persons are allowed for each the defence and the prosecution.

Earlier, Muhammad Shafee informed the judge that he may need to discharge himself from acting for Najib as he found it difficult to function with the restrictions.

He also said he found it difficult to carry out his duty as a lawyer as it was hard for him to speak to Najib.

“I cannot function like this. I have not spoken to my client. I may need to discharge myself,” said the lawyer.

Muhammad Shafee also complained about passes issued by the court to enter the courtroom to which Sequerah replied: “Then, it is better to go to Pasar Borong Selayang (wholesale market) and conduct the hearing there without restrictions”.

The judge also raised his concern if the court did not abide by the SOP.

“Then there is no point, might as well allow everyone to come in,” he said.

The trial then continued with former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, taking the stand.

Najib, 67,  faces four charges of abusing his position to obtain gratification totalling RM2.3 billion in 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money.