At Najib’s 1MDB trial, defence questions go unanswered as MoF ex-official gripped by failure to recall

·4-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 5 — A prosecution witness who previously worked in the Finance Ministry told the High Court repeatedly today she could not remember specific matters linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), including events from as far back as 2009.

Datuk Siti Zauyah Md Desa, who had been the deputy secretary-general (policy) of the Finance Ministry from 2016 until her mandatory retirement in 2019, was testifying as the 26th prosecution witness in former finance minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s trial over the alleged misappropriation of RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds.

While being cross-examined today by Najib’s lawyer, Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed, on documents from between 2009 and 2013, Siti Zauyah also took often long pauses before answering questions, frequently flipping through documentary evidence placed before her.

She also asked the lawyer to repeat questions several times, but answered most with some version of “I cannot recall” in both Malay and English, or simply “I don’t know”.

At one point, Siti Zauyah replied: “I don’t remember; 12, 13 years ago, I don’t remember.”

She was at that time asked about a June 2010 invitation from the Finance Ministry to 1MDB for a meeting to discuss corporate affairs of 1MDB.

There were also times where Siti Zauyah simply kept silent and did not answer.

High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah also had to step in, at one point telling Wan Aizuddin to just present the points he was asking Siti Zauyah as part of the defence’s submissions in the future, at the end of the prosecutions’ case.

“I think just submit on that, this is going nowhere,” the judge said.

Siti Zauyah also did not answer when Wan Aizuddin asked for confirmation that 1MDB was not part of the Finance Ministry or when he rephrased this to have her confirm that former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi was not a Finance Ministry employee.

As Wan Aizuddin pressed Siti Zauyah by saying he would “appreciate an answer so that we can move on”, the judge asked Wan Aizuddin to repeat his question.

“You agree with me this letter from Datuk Shahrol is an outsider, not an officer or member of the Finance Ministry?” the lawyer said to Siti Zauyah, before telling her there was no element of entrapment and purely to establish this “as a matter of fact”.

The judge then said he could either press the issue or move on and indicated that he will just record that there was no answer given, with Wan Aizuddin then choosing to move on.

Wan Aizuddin also chose to move on at other points of the questioning and to leave the points he had questioned on for submissions.

Throughout the trial, Najib who was seated in the accused’s dock was at time seen shaking his head at Siti Zauyah’s answers, occassionaly expressing “hmmph” in response.

Najib’s wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, who was seated in the public gallery, giving out audible “hmmph” to several instances when Siti Zauyah indicated she could not recall.

The 1MDB trial resumes tomorrow, with Wan Aizuddin expected to continue cross-examining Siti Zauyah.

Before trial started today, Najib — who was dressed in a black pinstripe suit and a dark brown tie with white stripes — was seen inside the courtroom sipping on a drink from the coffee chain Gloria Jeans, which has an outlet in the court complex itself. He was also sipping on such a cup at other times in the day.

He was also seen eating in the public gallery from a takeaway food pack handed over by his aide this morning before the trial started.

Wife of former prime minister Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor arrives at Kuala Lumpur Court Complex to follow the continuation of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) trial September 5, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Wife of former prime minister Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor arrives at Kuala Lumpur Court Complex to follow the continuation of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) trial September 5, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Wife of former prime minister Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor arrives at Kuala Lumpur Court Complex to follow the continuation of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) trial September 5, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Rosmah was seen sitting in the courtroom throughout most of the trial today.

Najib’s sons Datuk Mohd Nizar and Norashman were also seen in the court complex outside the courtroom today, with Norashman later also attending part of the afternoon session of the trial.

So far, 34 prosecution witnesses have appeared in court to testify in this trial including Siti Zauyah, while the prosecution in late June said it intends to call in another 20 more prosecution witnesses.