Riza may testify against Najib

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KUALA LUMPUR: The 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial involving former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is likely to see a new name added to the prosecution’s list of witnesses, his own stepson – Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram informed the High Court that the 43-year-old Hollywood film producer was a possible witness by his own accord following his discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) recently.
“We may have to revise our list of witnesses because Riza has indicated his readiness to give evidence for the prosecution in the case, ” said the former Federal Court judge yesterday.
Last week, Riza was granted a DNAA by a Sessions Court here over five counts of money laundering charges involving US$248mil (RM1.25bil) after an agreement was struck between the prosecution and his defence team.
The decision to discharge him created a media storm when the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), former attorney general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas and Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun issued contradictory statements, while the public weighed in on the issue.
Sri Ram also told the court the prosecution would initiate contempt proceedings against Najib over an interview he gave to a foreign news wire agency two months ago.
He said the news report – published by Reuters on March 4 – carried remarks from the accused who said that he was expecting a more conducive atmosphere for a fair trial with the fall of the Pakatan Harapan government.
“That is a serious allegation. It seems like Your Honour’s court emanated a bad atmosphere before the government changed. It’s a very serious allegation, ” Sri Ram said, adding that the prosecution would be making a formal application on the matter.
Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah acknowledged that the prosecution had full liberty to make the application but said the remarks were not meant for the court.
“Even in his SRC International Sdn Bhd case, he (Najib) has been asking for a gag order against the press.
“But (former prime minister during Pakatan government) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad seemed to declare my client as a ‘penyangak’, a robber, and a thief.
“Perhaps with a change of government, with getting rid of Dr Mahathir, it is more conducive for my client. It (the remark) does not denote Your Honour at all, ” Shafee said.
He then asked for the prosecution to reconsider its intention to cite his client for contempt.
The hearing continued with former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, 50, taking the stand for cross-examination by Shafee.
He testified that the 1MDB board of directors were under the pervasive view of always being careful on what they minuted during 1MDB board meetings, just in case it will be turned against Najib later.
Shahrol, who was the CEO from 2009 to 2013, said some items that were discussed during their board meetings were not recorded in order to not give extra ammunition for “political attacks” against the former prime minister.
The witness said this when asked by Shafee whether he had informed the board of the difficulty in obtaining documents for the purpose of 1MDB auditing to auditing firm Ernst and Young (EY), since it was not recorded in the minutes of the meeting.
EY was 1MDB’s auditor in 2009 before its service was terminated the following year.
The witness said there was a proposal to replace EY with another audit firm, KPMG, and did not dismiss the idea that it could have come from fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.
Najib, 67, is facing four charges of abusing his position to obtain gratification totalling RM2.28bil in 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money.
The trial before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues today.
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