Najib’s lawyer asks 1MDB ex-CEO to see if signatures authorising multi-million fund transfers were ‘cut and paste’ but told not handwriting expert

KUALA LUMPUR : Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyer today (May 19) tried to ask a former chief of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) if the signatures of two former company officials in letters authorising the bank transfers of millions of US dollars from a subsidiary were “cut and paste”.

This took place during the ongoing trial of former prime minister Najib’s abuse of power and money laundering trial in relation to more than RM2 billion of 1MDB funds.

Najib’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed asked 1MDB ex-CEO Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman to compare the signatures on 18 letters of instructions to authorise such bank transfers out of 1MDB Global Investments Limited’s (1MDB GIL) bank account.

Mohd Hazem, who is the 10th prosecution witness in Najib’s 1MDB trial, confirmed that these documents were not shown to him while he was 1MDB GIL director in the past.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court May 19, 2021. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court May 19, 2021. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Shown one of these documents that authorised Swiss bank BSI to transfer over US$156 million out of 1MDB GIL’s BSI bank account to Cistenique Investment Fund on March 20, 2013, Mohd Hazem said he was never told by 1MDB’s then chief financial officer Azmi Tahir and then deputy chief financial officer Terence Geh of the purported investment that this fund transfer was for.

He confirmed, however, that the two signatures on the instruction letter to BSI were the signatures of Azmi and Terence, as he was familiar with their signatures.

(The three of them — Mohd Hazem, Azmi, Terence — were the authorised signatories of 1MDB GIL’s BSI account, where over US$2.7 billion was deposited on March 19, 2013 after a US$3 billion bond issued by 1MDB GIL for a fundraising exercise.)

Wan Aizuddin then asked Mohd Hazem to compare Azmi’s and Terence’s signatures on all 18 documents: “If you look at all those transfer instructions I showed you, you compare all the signatures on them, can you confirm that all these signatures are identical — the shape, the curve, the size is all identical?”

Mohd Hazem then asked: “You are asking me to say all the signatures are exactly the same?”

At this point, deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib objected by noting that Mohd Hazem is not a “handwriting expert”, while Wan Aizuddin said he was merely asking the witness to “compare” the signatures.

High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah also suggested that the way the question was worded may not be suited for Mohd Hazem, as he was merely familiar with the signatures as he was used to seeing them.

“He’s already said he’s familiar with the signature, asking him to compare may take him out of the realms of someone who is familiar, and place him in a position of expert. Asking him about the curve, the way the handwriting appears, the way the signature is signed, is crafted, maybe that’s beyond his expertise,” the judge said.

Wan Aizuddin then rephrased his question, asking: “I’m suggesting to you based on your observation on all these documents, it appears that both signatures on all these instructions appear to be a cut and paste situation.”

Mohd Hazem then said he could not answer this question, while the judge suggested that Najib’s lawyers put this in their submissions and asked how it would be possible to tell if the signatures were “cut and paste”.

Mohd Hazem then said he could not tell if the signatures were “cut and paste”, but said that he could tell that the signatures were obviously not identical on two of the documents even if he is not an expert.

Citing his personal observation on just two of the documents, Mohd Hazem said Terence’s signature was “obviously not the same”, noting that it was “quite apparent for anyone to notice”.

Wan Aizuddin then sought to ask if Mohd Hazem noticed dotted features around the signatures on the documents, but the judge again said that he did not think Mohd Hazem was in a position to answer such questions and with Wan Aizuddin then dropping this line of questioning and opting to possibly pursue it in submissions.

The trial is scheduled to resume tomorrow morning.


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