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1MDB-Tanore trial: Judge turns down Najib's request to delay trial this week

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 16): High Court judge Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah, who is presiding over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)-Tanore trial, has dismissed the application made by the accused Datuk Seri Najib Razak (pictured) to postpone the trial this week. 

Lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah today explained that the application to adjourn the proceedings for this week is made on two grounds; firstly, to allow the team to seek documents from the US courts, which he said is very important to the case as they may affect the cross-examination of some of the witnesses in this trial. 

The documents are related to former Goldman Sachs executive Tim Leissner, who pleaded guilty to helping to siphon billions of dollars from 1MDB. Part of his confession included his admission to bribing certain officials of 1MDB and the Malaysian government.

For this, Najib had in November last year made an application for a court order that would permit his lawyers to serve subpoenas in order to reveal the names of the officials who have accepted those bribes. 

Shafee suggested that if the names included some of the prosecution's witnesses in the 1MDB-Tanore trial, such as former chief executive officers Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi and Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman, it would paint "a whole different colour" to their respective testimonies. 

As it stands, Shafee said the US Department of Justice had made a stay application to intervene on Najib's attempt to retrieve those documents. As such, the senior lawyer had requested for the 1MDB-Tanore trial to be adjourned pending their matter in the US to be resolved, expected by June 2021. 

Shafee also cited the need for time as the defence's second reason for the adjournment application, considering that his team is in the midst of preparing court documents to meet a March 1 deadline for the April hearing of Najib's appeal in the Court of Appeal against his conviction in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case. 

In response, Justice Sequerah had agreed for the dates in April to be adjourned to make way for the SRC case at the Court of Appeal, but insisted that the 1MDB-Tanore trial would still carry on this week. 

The judge said he will allow the defence to recall any prosecution witnesses to be questioned again if needed, should there be any new revelation or any related information as a result of the US court matter. 

“As far as the US proceedings are concerned, they can carry on. I will allow every opportunity and leeway for the defence to recall as and when the (US) proceedings conclude, whatever revelations, so that will not be an issue.

“As for SRC, I just want to make a point that I have deferred to SRC at the trial stage and I’m going to defer to SRC at the appellate stage. We have got only these three days, I have to proceed with the case. I do sympathise with your (Shafee) situation, but I have to proceed with the case, because this court has got very limited dates, so can we proceed with the trial and later we have to resume in May," Justice Sequerah said. 

The three days referred by the judge are today, tomorrow, and Thursday (Feb 16, 17, and 18), which are the only remaining scheduled trial dates in February. After the April dates are vacated, the next trial date will be on May 3. 

The trial continues today with the continuation of cross-examination of the prosecution's 10th witness, Hazem. 

In the 1MDB-Tanore trial, Najib is charged with four counts of power abuse to enrich himself with RM2.3 billion from 1MDB and 21 counts of laundering the same amount. He faces up to 20 years' imprisonment if convicted.

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