By Aathi Shankar
The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government has made a major U-turn in its relentless persecution of former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
PH via the prosecution led by roped-in lawyer Datuk V. Sithambaram was always evasive over fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low in the just concluded Najib-SRC trial.
However, in the Najib-1MDB trial that began on Wednesday, August 28, 2019, the prosecution took a more pro-active and direct approach to implicate Jho Low.
Ad hoc lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram in his opening statement to kick start the trial announced that Jho Low was a key figure in 1MDB scandal.
SRC vs 1MDB
Throughout the SRC International Sdn Bhd trial, the prosecution was quick off its block to thwart any attempt by Najib’s defence team to implicate Jho Low with the crimes.
Jho Low’s name somehow managed to feature in the trial only when Ambank’s ex-managing director Cheah Tek Kuang and former relationship manager Joanna Yu Ging Ping testified.
The testimonial evidence by both the former bank officers and digital evidences from Joanna Yu’s Blackberry messages proved that Jho Low was the main manipulator of Najib’s private accounts in Ambank.
So it was scandalous when the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) decided to omit Jho Low as a prime witness, if not an accused, in the Najib-SRC trial.
Investigation officer (IO) Rosli Hussain testified that Jho Low was deemed not a material witness, let alone an accused, in the SRC case.
PH via the prosecution under Sithambaram did not want to prosecute Jho Low, neither use him as a witness.
However, almost instantly, the prosecution under Gopal decided to expose Jho Low and use him as the mirror image and alter ego of Najib in the 1MDB trial.
Gopal has given the clearest indication that the prosecution’s 1MDB trial screenplay would focus to link Najib to the crimes vis-à-vis Jho Low.
The prosecution would work to establish facts to give rise to an irresistible inference that Jho Low and Najib acted as one at all material times.
The prosecution has set the tone that it would try to prove that Najib and Jho Low had collaborated and worked together to misappropriate 1MDB funds.
Najib faces 25 counts of corruption involving RM2.28 billion of 1MDB money.
His first four charges were framed under sections 23(1) and 24(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009; while the other 21 charges were under Section 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 (AMLATFA).
For the charges under the MACC Act, the 66-year-old was accused of using his position as prime minister, finance minister and chairman of the 1MDB advisory board at the time, to receive bribes on four occasions.
The money-laundering charges involved nine counts of receiving illegal proceeds, five counts of using illegal proceeds and seven counts of transferring the proceeds to other entities.
The Pekan MP is alleged to have committed the offences at the AmIslamic Bank Bhd at No 55, Jalan Raja Chulan, Bukit Ceylon between 2011 and 2014.
The fact is Najib was only the chairman of 1MDB’s panel of advisor.
According to company laws, a company’s board of directors is solely responsible and accountable for all its undertakings, including corporate governance and management of funds.
Isn’t the board of directors, not a panel of advisors, was the body entrusted with 1MDB funds?
Thus, it’s baffling that none of the 1MDB directors were charged for the alleged crimes.
Even more perplexing is that its chief advisor has been made the scapegoat.
An advisor being made liable for alleged crimes committed right under the noses of company directors?
Another clear hint of political persecution isn’t it!
The pertinent question now is why the PH government, via prosecution, committed such a huge ‘Jho Low’ U-turn?
What was a taboo in SRC trial has become a straight forward legal agenda in 1MDB.
Is it because PH finally has realised that it could not avoid Jho Low or it wants to punish Najib for crimes committed by another person?