Court told ex-BNM governor Zeti Aziz unwell and unable to testify in Najb’s 1MDB trial, but hearing to proceed tomorrow

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 — Former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz will not be taking the stand as the prosecution witness in the ongoing 1MDB trial of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib told the High Court that he was informed this morning by a police investigating officer (IO) that Zeti was unwell and would not be able to testify tomorrow as planned.

“Tan Sri Zeti, who I said will come tomorrow, just told her lawyer who informed the IO she's not well and she's on MC for two days,” he said.

He added that Zeti was having fever and vomiting and will provide a medical certificate for two days to the court.

High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah said the trial should continue and suggested other witnesses be called instead.

Akram however said one of the witnesses is overseas and will be coming next month, while former BSI Bank banker Kevin Michael Swampillai who is working and staying in Singapore has already been scheduled to be called in as a prosecution witness in the second week of December.

Najib's lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said he had already planned to cross-examine former AmBank banker Joanna Yu in the first week of December, and suggested to stick to that plan instead of calling her to appear tomorrow to testify.

After a brief discussion with the judge and defence lawyers, Akram suggested calling former 1MDB chairman and former Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah tomorrow for cross-examination as the 42nd prosecution witness.

Najib's lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah agreed.

The judge then told the prosecution to ensure Irwan turns up tomorrow.

Zeti was not the only person involved in the trial who is unwell.

Earlier this morning, Akram informed the court that lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram was feeling feverish and unable to move.

Sri Ram was supposed to reply to Shafee after the lawyer presented his arguments on the audio recordings of Najib’s conversations with a United Arab Emirates royal in today’s hearing.

“Unfortunately this morning about 6.47am, I received a text message from Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram informing he has high fever and he couldn't move,” Akram said.

He added that a doctor who went to see Sri Ram confirmed the latter’s condition and gave the latter three days of medical leave. The medical certificate was also presented to the court today.

The 1MDB trial resumed with Shafee giving his reasons for his objection to an audio clip being tendered as evidence in court.

Among other things, Shafee argued that Section 43 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act requires protocols to be complied with when wiretapping conversations by getting the necessary authorisation, to ensure that there is no breach of the constitutional right to privacy and liberty.

Referring to the prosecution's bid to have the audio recordings and their transcripts labelled “Audio-5”, “Audio-6”, “Audio-7”, and “Audio-9" accepted in court, Shafee suggested that there was a breach of constitutional provisions in the interception of the alleged conversations involving Najib.

"So here, the authority, and I'm not saying it is MACC, some authority in Malaysia has breached Section 43, most likely the Special Branch, because this looks like a wire has been put over many, many moons, but they have got one until nine, maybe more," he said, suggesting that Najib's constitutional right to privacy under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution had allegedly been "consciously and deliberately violated" through the alleged non-compliance of Section 43.

Suggesting that the prosecution would not be able to show evidence of who made the audio recordings featuring Najib's voice, Shafee argued that this would stop the audio recordings from becoming evidence in court.

"In order to admit video or audio recordings in this case, you must show provenance, you must show the history of the recording and you must show origin," he said. "They have not shown it. The person who recorded it must come here. I don't think he will ever come because that will be a confession in the High Court because he's doing it illegally. It's a black operation."

Sri Ram is expected to present on another day the prosecution's reply to Shafee's arguments. Sri Ram had previously said he needs to have the audio clips presented to the court to rebut Najib's claim that the money which had entered his accounts was an "Arab donation".

In this trial, Najib is facing 25 charges over the misappropriation of RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds that were alleged to have entered his personal bank accounts.