Prosecutor Sri Ram says 1MDB was run like ‘coffee shop’, blames it on Najib’s ‘alter ego’ Jho Low

(MMO) – State-owned investment company 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was operated like a “Chinese coffee shop”, but this was due to Low Taek Jho who was the alleged alter ego of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the High Court heard today.

Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram reminded the defence lawyers that the prosecution’s 10th witness Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman is not the person on trial but Najib, who is accused of misappropriating more than RM2 billion of 1MDB’s funds.

Sri Ram urged them to ask the witness questions that were relevant.

At one point, judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah also asked Najib’s lawyer how questions to the prosecution witness regarding the initial public offering (IPO) or public listing of a company would be related to Najib’s defence in the 1MDB trial.

Replying to the judge, Najib’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed said he wanted to show “mismanagement” in 1MDB and to question Mohd Hazem’s credibility as a witness.

Sri Ram then interjected interjected, noting that the prosecution’s case is that Najib and Low — also known as Jho Low — were acting together in relation to 1MDB..

“We agree for what it’s worth that the affairs of 1MDB were run along the lines of a Chinese coffee shop in Petaling Street, but the reason for that — we are advancing — is that these people acted on the directions of Jho Low who was the alter ego or mirror image of the accused, and both of them acted in concert.

“That is our case, so we are prepared to tolerate this line of questioning only because it is completely irrelevant to our case,” Sri Ram said when arguing that Najib’s lawyers were asking Mohd Hazem questions irrelevant to the case.

But Wan Aizuddin countered that it was the defence team’s job to present their arguments and claimed that Najib had been victimised by Low.

“As the prosecution has their case, we also have our case for defence. And our case is still along the line of what the prosecution is saying, there was mismanagement, negligence in terms of operations of 1MDB. But this was perpetrated by Jho Low’s victimisation of our client,” he replied.

The judge then told Najib’s lawyers to keep such questions to a minimum and move on after they have made their points.

He also said the defence should reserve their arguments for the submission stage after having made their points and when the witness replies he has no knowledge, noting that Mohd Hazem did not know a lot of the matters being asked.

Today, Najib’s lawyers were cross-examining Hazem, who is a former CEO of 1MDB from March 2013 to early January 2015.

Earlier this morning, Sri Ram had also one point questioned what Wan Aizuddin’s point was in the latter’s questions towards Hazem, remarking: “The witness is not on trial.”

At another point when Hazem had replied that he was aware of the process for a company to be publicly listed but “not in detail”, Sri Ram again interjected when Wan Aizuddin continued asking questions on this matter.

“No point beating a dead horse,” Sri Ram said, referring to an English expression that suggests a waste of effort.

Wan Aizuddin however said that he was not beating a dead horse as he was only asking a general question before zooming in on further specific questions.

Wan Aizuddin also confirmed to the High Court today that Najib’s lawyers are confident of completing their cross-examination of Hazem by this week.

Hazem has been on the witness stand in this trial since September 14, 2020. Amid various disruptions including those linked to Covid-19 and movement control orders, Hazem would have been testifying for 20 days so far, including today.

On the first day of Najib’s 1MDB trial, the prosecution had also said it would prove that Low was allegedly the “alter ego” and “mirror image” of Najib, and had also said it would establish facts that would result in an irresistible inference that both of them had acted as one at all material times.