Najib’s lawyer objects to 1MDB ex-CEO testifying about Jho Low’s alleged remarks, claims hearsay

KUALA LUMPUR : Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyer today contested former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chief executive Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman’s expected testimony on fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho’s remarks about the firm, before he could be called in to testify in the former prime minister’s corruption trial.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court September 7, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court September 7, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah today argued that 24 pages of Mohd Hazem’s 118-page written witness statement may not be admitted as evidence and should be removed, due to it purportedly being hearsay.null

“Before the next witness gives evidence, can we officially put our objection to various parts of the written statement, under the objection of hearsay?” he told the court just before Mohd Hazem was to enter the courtroom as the 10th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial.

Shafee then read out various examples of Mohd Hazem’s witness statement that he claimed would amount to hearsay, including a line where Mohd Hazem claimed Low said 1MDB was founded to help Umno through the company’s strategic investments.

Shafee said that such a remark would effectively allow a “statement without oath” to come in by the “backdoor” as he could not cross-examine Low and corroborate.null

“The simple definition of hearsay is any statement made by a witness that he is not familiar with the factual with the factual circumstances and the statement like for instance ‘Jho Low said this’, this is hearsay if Jho Low is not in the witness box.

“It is only allowable if Jho Low comes or any witness he has quoted and say ‘alright 1MDB is established for purposes of helping Umno’ and things like that. If he says that, then it is not hearsay,” he said.

Shafee said Najib’s defence team could not verify remarks Mohd Hazem claimed were from individuals such as the now-missing Low and the late Datuk Azlin Alias who was Najib’s principal private secretary, as they would not be available for questioning in court.

“Here we have a situation where neither Jho Low nor Datuk Azlin nor the lady lawyer by the name of Jasmine Loo is going to be called,” he said, referring to Loo and Low who are both believed to be abroad.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at Kuala Lumpur High Court, September 7, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at Kuala Lumpur High Court, September 7, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Another example that Shafee had read out in court of alleged hearsay by Mohd Hazem was regarding remarks that Azlin was said to have mentioned in the past, as well as another remark referring to what Low had allegedly said regarding Najib.

Shafee said that it would be better for the judge to decide at this point whether the contended parts in Mohd Hazem’s written witness statement are hearsay or not, instead of going through the “onerous task” and trouble of deciding this at the end of prosecution’s stage.

Lawyer Ahmad Akram Gharib is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 22, 2019. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Lawyer Ahmad Akram Gharib is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 22, 2019. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib however argued that the contended parts in Mohd Hazem’s witness statement are not hearsay, further saying that these paragraphs can be admitted in court as evidence under Sections 5, 6 and 10 of the Evidence Act.

Section 5 relates to the giving of evidence that are relevant and that are related to the facts in issue in a trial, while Section 6 explained that relevant evidence includes facts which are so connected to facts in issue that they form part of the same transaction. Section 10 is related to the proving of matters such as the existence of a conspiracy or involvement in a conspiracy to commit offences.

Akram went on to say that the the parts that Shafee were objecting to were necessary for Mohd Hazem to tell the court, with the purpose of “unfolding the narrative” of Mohd Hazem acting the way that he did due to what he allegedly heard from Low and to ensure that his story made sense without having any gaps in the narrative.

“But at the end of the day, what’s important for Your Lordship to consider is whether at the end of the day the accused has done all this, not this. This story is for them to explain to Yang Arif how matters unfolded during those times, therefore this is relevant as well as admissible under Section 6,  Section 5, Section 10 of the Evidence Act,” he said.

Akram said Mohd Hazem’s statement is intended to explain his conduct and not to prove the truth of his statement, also saying that the paragraphs that Shafee was objecting to are relevant facts that are closely connected to the facts in issue in this trial via Section 6 of the Evidence Act.

“But at the end of the day, we won’t rely on whatever they say or on what Jho Low told them. But what the accused person conducted on the charges, those are things we need to prove. But if we miss out all those things, and take out all these things, it won’t be a full story. We won’t understand the story,” he said.

Akram also said the prosecution will be tendering documents including emails as evidence that will support what Mohd Hazem says, further arguing that the objections by Najib’s defence team is premature.

Among other things, Shafee later argued that things that are relevant would not necessarily be admissible evidence in court, also saying that the rules of hearsay still apply when it comes to proving a conspiracy.

Akram later again maintained the prosecution’s stand that Mohd Hazem’s witness statement did not contain hearsay.

After hearing the arguments from both sides, High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah said he will hear lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram first if he has any further arguments to make on this issue before delivering his decision tomorrow, or will proceed to deliver his decision directly tomorrow.

The judge said he will have to decide first whether to allow Mohd Hazem’s witness statement as it stands or whether to ask for certain parts to be deleted, before this witness can be called in to testify in court.

Mohd Hazem was initially scheduled to take the stand this afternoon as a prosecution witness in Najib’s trial, but was not called into the courtroom today as Shafee had raised the objection to some of the contents in his witness statement.

BY : IDA LIM – MALAY MAIL

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