Sri Ram warns Najib's lawyers against conducting 1MDB trial by media, vows to seek court order to stop 'attack' on prosecution
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak's lawyers should not seek to defend him in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) trial by attacking the prosecution through statements to the media, but should instead defend him in the actual trial in court, the prosecution said today.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram today told the High Court of his strong objection to Najib's lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah's act of issuing a media statement regarding evidence in the ongoing 1MDB trial.
Reading out parts of Shafee's press statement issued on Najib's behalf which claimed that the prosecution had failed to disclose details of five transactions of hundreds of millions that entered Najib's account, Sri Ram said the statement was a "direct attack" on the prosecution.
Sri Ram said this was unfair as the prosecution — which conducts the 1MDB trial in court instead of through the media — could not be making a response in public.
“With respect, the accused must conduct his trial in court, he cannot be conducting it in public,” he said, referring to Najib as the accused.
“And we are put in an invidious position, because we cannot respond, I cannot respond in public and it is not proper for me to respond in public,” he pointed out.
As for the three letters purportedly by an alleged Saudi prince Saud Abdulaziz Al-Saud which Najib's lawyers had been showing the High Court in the 1MDB trial of purported promises of hundreds of millions of US dollars as a “gift” to Najib, Sri Ram said these same letters had been rejected by all three tiers of the court in the SRC case against Najib.
“The letters which my learned friend are referring to are the very same letters which were placed before Justice Nazlan, rejected by him, the Court of Appeal and Federal Court. If they are going to rely on the same letters in the public domain, they are under duty to say the same letters produced were rejected. That is fairness to us, but they cannot say suppressed to us.
“Those documents are not relevant to my case. I have to prove to My Lord that monies belonging to 1MDB went into his account with his full knowledge. I'm not interested in proving or disproving his defence. If he wants to raise it, my answer simply is that he is stopped from raising it,” he said when explaining that the prosecution only has to provide documents relevant to its case against Najib.
While saying that this is not the juncture where he would seek a High Court decision on the matter as it requires mature consideration and substantial arguments, Sri Ram fired a stern warning to Najib's lawyers.
“I must warn my learned friend, they cannot do this, they cannot try this case by media. If they want to do that, I'm afraid I have to move Your Lordship for an order barring such discussion,” he said.
Shafee was not present when Sri Ram made his objection, as he was said to be unwell.
Lawyer, Wan Aizudin Wan Mohammed arrives at Kuala Lumpur High Court September 29, 2022. Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Najib's lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed informed the High Court that he was not in a position to respond to the objection, and that Shafee will be replying the first thing tomorrow morning.
But Wan Aizuddin also made an immediate response regarding the purported Saudi prince's letters with the aim to not have the 1MDB trial judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah's mind "to be polluted" by Sri Ram's remarks in relation to the SRC case.
“I have to put on record, for SRC it is pertaining to different charges pertaining to different transactions not directly related to these three Arab letters that is before Yang Arif today, and how these letters are utilised before Yang Arif in this trial is still subject to Yang Arif's findings of facts and law and Yang Arif shouldn't take any consideration at all on what had been found by a different judge taking into account the different charges at this junction,” he said.
Sri Ram then said he was not inviting judge Collin to make any finding, but that he was merely saying that the prosecution was being put in an "invidious" position by Najib's lawyers as the prosecution was wrongly portrayed to be suppressing evidence.
"I'm only saying I'm being put in an invidious position, as if we are misleading the court by suppressing the evidence, that is not true. We need to vindicate and I don't think I'm prepared to tolerate this kind of statement in public by the accused through his solicitor or anyone else, because the attacks go to the very root of the trial," he said.
Judge Collin said he will wait for Shafee's reply on this matter.
Najib's 1MDB trial resumes this afternoon.
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