Najib's lawyer in 1MDB trial: Get Jho Low here so he can be quizzed

Ida Lim
Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah argued that the court should not accept evidence given by prosecution witnesses of what Low had allegedly told them, due to Low's ‘manipulative’ nature. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 — The Malaysian authorities should recover fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho in order to question him regarding the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fiasco instead of having witnesses tell the court what he had said, a lawyer said today.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak's lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah argued that the court should not accept evidence given by prosecution witnesses of what Low had allegedly told them, due to Low's “manipulative” nature.

“What Jho Low said is not necessarily true. We have shown through Amhari and Amhari said Jho Low is a master manipulator,” Shafee said during his client Najib's corruption trial over 1MDB, referring to eighth prosecution witness Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin who was former special officer to Najib.

Shafee argued that Low could still be manipulating and could have manipulated the issue of 1MDB and its predecessor Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) and then prime minister Najib or manipulating other witnesses.

Shafee noted that the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador had recently said that Low's location has been identified. (Low has fled abroad and has yet to be brought back to the country).

“I would like Jho Low to be produced as quickly as possible so that he can be interviewed,” Shafee said.

Shafee had objected to the ninth prosecution witness and former TIA CEO and former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi testifying in court of what Low was said to have told him in the past, arguing that this amounted to hearsay and should not be admitted as evidence in court.

“We are saying that this current witness quotes Jho Low and Jho Low is not here to be cross-examined.

“And it becomes very difficult for Yang Arif to ascertain whether Jho Low is telling the truth or if he is using this method of quoting Jho Low in order to perjure,” Shafee said, noting that Low is not present to be questioned.

Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram however argued that the evidence by prosecution witnesses is not hearsay, noting that such evidence could be produced in court as Najib’s defence in the corruption trial appears to be his claim of allegedly having been misled by Low.

“The prosecution is therefore entitled to show that he was not or could not have been misled by Jho Low,” Sri Ram said.

Noting for example that Najib did not respond or appear surprised when Amhari presented Low’s talking points on a China trip on an alleged bailout of 1MDB debts, Sri Ram said that this was conduct complementing the words allegedly spoken by Low to the trial witnesses.

Sri Ram highlighted that it was important to know how the witnesses interacted with Najib and how Najib interacted with them and Low in the past, adding that the prosecution wants to “prove the knowledge and complicity of” Najib with Low.

“The fact pattern of our case is unique. The accused (Najib) before Your Lordship is no ordinary person, he was at that time the prime minister and the most powerful individual in the country. So this case has to be looked at its peculiar facts and circumstances.

“For these reasons, we respectfully submit that what Shahrol said, what Amhari said, that they acted upon Jho Low’s statements, and how they verified it with the accused, and the accused’s conduct and state of mind on what Jho Low told them are all relevant evidence,” Sri Ram said, adding that witnesses’ description of what Low told them would fall within the category of circumstantial evidence in Australia.

Shafee however insisted that the truth of what Shahrol testified cannot be guaranteed, claiming that the latter is allegedly “under fire” and purportedly has “reason to play ball with the MACC”.

Shahrol is expected to continue testifying today, which will also be the 12th day of Najib's trial before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.

The judge said he would make a ruling regarding the hearsay objections raised by Shafee at the end of the trial.

Najib's ongoing 1MDB trial involves 25 criminal charges — four counts of abusing his position for his own financial benefit totalling almost RM2.3 billion allegedly originating from 1MDB and the resulting 21 counts of money-laundering.

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