Prosecution wants Najib’s 1MDB trial held online but defence objects

(FMT) – The prosecution in Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial has suggested that the High Court proceed with the case through an online hearing.

Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib told trial judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah that an amendment to Section 15A of the Courts of Judicature Act allowed court hearings to be carried out online.

“I have received instructions from lead counsel (ad hoc prosecutor) Gopal Sri Ram to have an online hearing.

“The online hearing was done for Datuk Seri’s (Najib’s) application last week as well as his SRC International Sdn Bhd appeal,” he said.

During the last proceedings on Nov 18, former 1MDB director Ismee Ismail and former chief finance officer Azmi Tahir had completed their examination-in-chief but had yet to be questioned by Najib’s lawyers.

Last week, Najib followed the Court of Appeal’s decision against his SRC International conviction and sentence appeal from his home, and his lawyers from their office, after they came in contact with Covid-19 patients.

The appeals court affirmed the High Court’s findings in convicting Najib on seven charges of power abuse, criminal breach of trust and money laundering over RM42 million in SRC International funds that entered his accounts.

It also upheld Najib’s 12-year jail sentence and RM210 million fine. However, Najib was released on bail pending his final appeal before the Federal Court.

This morning, Najib and lead lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah were turned away from the High Court after they were still flagged as “close contacts” on the MySejahtera app.

Another defence lawyer, Hariharan Tara Singh, told the court they objected to the proposal for an online hearing.

He cited the chief justice’s practice directive that online hearing was only applicable for civil cases.

“In that situation, we don’t have witnesses and we only submit based on the questions of law,” he said.

Hariharan also said the defence would not be able to seek immediate instructions from Najib through Zoom and the conversation would be heard by everyone watching the proceedings.

“Azmi is an important witness. We don’t know what his answers will be and we need to check with our client.

“With due respect, even if his (Najib’s) test is negative, he is supposed to observe 10 days and his 10-day period will end by Wednesday (Dec 15),” he said, adding that the trial could proceed in open court on Dec 16.

Sequerah said he would decide on the application tomorrow.

The court was later told that the test results of both Najib and Shafee had turned out to be negative.

“They have updated their MySejahtera status but their results are still ‘casual contact’,” Hariharan said, adding that under the health ministry’s guidelines, both were expected to observe self-quarantine for 10 days.

Najib is standing trial on 25 counts of money laundering and abuse of power over the alleged misuse of 1MDB funds amounting to RM2.28 billion deposited into his AmBank accounts between February 2011 and December 2014.

The hearing is scheduled to continue tomorrow.