KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah today again sought to highlight the SRC case's trial judge Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali's past Maybank role in relation to the bank's RM4.17 billion loan in 2012 to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MBD).
Shafee mentioned Mohd Nazlan's name during a separate trial today, where Najib is being accused of abusing his power by allegedly instructing for changes to the auditor-general's audit report on 1MDB.
Shafee cited Mohd Nazlan's name while cross-examining former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy, who was testifying as the 15th prosecution witness in this trial over the tampering of the 1MDB audit report.
Arul Kanda, however, ultimately said he did not personally know about Mohd Nazlan's alleged role in relation to the Maybank loan.
Arul Kanda, who joined 1MDB in January 2015 as president and group executive director, was asked by Shafee about a RM6.17 billion syndicated loan or a loan jointly given by RHB and Maybank to a 1MDB subsidiary (where RHB provided RM2 billion and Maybank provided RM4.17 billion).
Arul Kanda said he recalled there were two tranches for the loan and agreed that one of it was already going bad or defaulting since late 2014, agreeing with Shafee's suggestion that he was very concerned and had informed Najib about this.
Arul Kanda acknowledged that he played a role to help mitigating the loan default, saying: "We were working with Maybank to find solutions to the defaulted loan."
Arul Kanda said his primary contact in Maybank then for the efforts to restructure the loan was Michael Oh-Lau, who was handling loan syndication at the bank and that he was handling the commercial aspect, while Maybank's legal counsel Dalvin Kaur was then handling the legal side of the loan rearranging efforts.
Shafee then asked if any of these Maybank officers made Arul Kanda aware that they would have to get go-ahead from their bosses on the matter.
Arul Kanda said this was not something that needed to be explained to him as he himself had such knowledge: "Not directly, because Tan Sri, I was also a banker before so I know how things work in banks, you have discussion at one level, one team, and ultimately within the bank they would have to go through approval process."
Shafee then asked who was Maybank's general counsel then, with Arul Kanda then saying: "Maybank group, Nazlan."
Shafee: Do you know the full name? Was it Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali?
Arul Kanda: Yes, that's right but I never met him nor did I interact with him.
Shafee asked if he was aware if there was a need for ultimate approval, while Arul Kanda said he was not aware of the internal process but said he expected that there would be approvals required.
Shafee: Can I suggest, especially a loan going south of this size?
Arul Kanda: Yes, I would assume so.
Later, lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram asked Arul Kanda again about Shafee's questions on Mohd Nazlan.
Sri Ram: Now it was suggested to you that Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali would have had a hand in this. You remember, just now? Do you know personal knowledge of this?
Arul Kanda: No.
In this corruption trial, Najib is accused of having as then prime minister and then finance minister abused his position between February 22, 2016 and February 26, 2016 to receive self-gratification in the form of protection from civil or criminal action over his role in the handling of 1MDB operations.
Najib was alleged of having abused his power by instructing for amendments to the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB before it was presented to the parliamentary watchdog Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The amendments were alleged to have been made after the report was already finalised and ready to be given to the PAC.
This trial before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan is set to resume on September 2.
In the separate SRC trial, Najib was found guilty over the misappropriation of RM42 million of SRC International Sdn Bhd's funds and is now serving a 12-year jail sentence due to this case.
Najib had previously sought to claim that Mohd Nazlan's alleged failure to disclose his former position in Maybank --- before he became a judge --- had resulted in alleged conflict of interest and urged for the entire SRC trial to be nullified and to go for retrial.
But the Federal Court had on August 16 rejected Najib's bid to add purported new evidence on this point as it found them to be irrelevant to his SRC charges, and on August 23 had upheld his conviction and 12-year jail term and RM210 million fine sentencing.
Former 1MDB chief executive Arul Kanda Kandasamy arrives at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex August 26, 2022. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Najib's family attends his trial
Najib had spent the past three nights in prison.
The prison convoy carrying Najib was seen entering the court complex's compound at around 8.48am, while Najib's son Norashman was seen outside the courtroom around 9am and Najib's wife Datin Seri Rosman Mansor was seen arriving at the court complex at 9.22am.
At around 10.16am, Najib walked into the courtroom from an attached holding room uncuffed, dressed in a dark blue suit and a light blue shirt, along with a blue tie with a lattice pattern in white and the trial then started. Najib's son Mohd Nizar and Rosmah were seen sitting in the public gallery throughout the hearing today.
At several instances during the trial, Najib was seen writing notes.
After the trial ended at around 11.12 am, Najib was seen speaking briefly to Arul Kanda and also waved briefly to those in the public gallery before he was brought to the holding room.
At 11.50am, Rosmah, Nizar, Norashman and Shafee were seen leaving the holding room where Najib was placed.
Rosmah was later seen waving to the convoy carrying Najib back to the prison, but the car window was not wound down unlike yesterday where Najib could be seen waving to his supporters from inside the car while it was leaving the court compound.