Author Romen Bose has just about had it with what he believes is the selective prosecution of former premier Najib Razak. He has kept quiet all this while, until natural justice appeared to be thrown out of the window.
I have been following the ongoing saga of Najib’s SRC International trial and how it has been rushed over the last four years (fyi, Anwar’s Sodomy II trial took six and a half years) but I have not made any comments because of my belief in the independence and integrity of the Malaysian judiciary and in the honourable men and women who interpret and deliver judgements based on the laws of the land.
So, I was silent when the Court of Appeal dismissed new evidence allegedly showing that the husband of former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, was allegedly in cahoots with Jho Low in the 1MDB scandal, a relationship the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) effectively confirmed in November 2021 when it said that as part of its recovery of 1MDB assets, Singaporean authorities had repatriated US$15.4 million to the Malaysian Government that had been seized from a company owned by Zeti’s husband.
Given Singapore’s robust banking, investigative and legal systems, I don’t think they would have seized and repatriated funds if they did not have proof that it was related to funds siphoned from 1MDB.
Mind you, Zeti’s reassurances was why Najib did not seem panicked when I spoke to him a day after the Wall Street Journal exposed the 1MDB scandal in 2015. As he told me then, he had been assured by Zeti that it was fine to open bank accounts in his own name and to have the US$643.41 million transferred in. Yet, despite giving Najib these assurances in 2012, Zeti then in 2018 publicly denied knowing anything about it.
She said: “In fact, on 3 July 2015, I was called to the Prime Minister’s office. He made a request for me to issue a statement that he had done nothing wrong in his account. I informed him that I cannot issue such a statement because I did not have knowledge of transactions that had occurred in his account.”
Funnily enough, I believe the MACC had investigated Zeti in 2018/2019 and had even submitted a report to the AGC (i.e. the guys who were already prosecuting Najib) showing that not only was Zeti fully aware of the monies flowing into Najib’s account but that her husband was allegedly hiding his and her children’s ill-gotten gains in Singapore.
From this, I believe Zeti had lied about the various 1MDB-linked funds transfers. Whether it was from 1MDB, KWAP or SRC is academic. If she lied about this, then one has to call into question BNM’s involvement and awareness of the various other fund transfers.
The biggest question that I thought the judges would be asking was, “Why did Zeti not make Najib aware of any ‘suspicious’ transactions?” I would think US$643.41 million would qualify as a suspicious transaction. Could it be because she was fully aware of these transactions but kept quiet because she knew her husband was being paid handsomely by Jho Low? Or was it because, when the scandal broke, she realised the only way to save herself was to deny any knowledge of the transactions?
I would have thought that would have been enough doubt for the judges to see that Najib would have very likely been unaware of any impropriety in regard to the funds coming into his account (whether from SRC or not) as he relied on the promises of the then central bank governor (and other trusted advisors who we now know were also on Jho Low’s payroll) whose duty was to also warn him if anything improper had occurred, and who has now been shown to have lied about her knowledge and actions regarding the siphoned 1MDB-related funds.
I was also silent when the Federal Court said the Court of Appeal was correct in dismissing this new evidence. The Chief Justice laid down circumstances where further evidence could be adduced, namely that the evidence must not have been made available during the trial proper, that it is relevant and credible, and that it would have raised reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury or trial judge in arriving at the decision of a case.
Conspiracy Against Najib
Ok, I am not a lawyer, but isn’t an MACC report that effectively proves that the head of Malaysia’s financial regulator at the time of all these transactions (including that of the SRC funds) had lied about her involvement and knowledge of the transactions (and who knows what else?), constitute as relevant and credible? And would this not have raised a reasonable doubt in the mind of anyone as to whether there was a greater conspiracy linking the 1MDB and SRC charges against Najib?
And shouldn’t the judges also have asked themselves why the prosecution (whom I believe were made aware of the MACC report back in 2018/2019) did not the make the report public, but rather chose to quietly drop Zeti as a prosecution witness without giving any explanation?
I was also silent when the Bar Council held a protest to condemn the MACC’s investigation into trial Judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali, following allegations of an unexplained sum of 1 million ringgit in his bank account and the fact that Nazlan had failed to disclose his role, involvement, or knowledge in the setting up of SRC International although he had served as the general counsel and company secretary for the Maybank Group in 2006.
In a summary of his High Court judgement Nazlan allegedly stated: “… the approval for the establishment of SRC by the accused (Najib) provided the true starting point for the involvement of the accused in the company.”
Now, anonymous whistle-blowers have sent Najib a cache of minutes of Maybank meetings and emails (if proven authentic) showing that Nazlan not only served as the general counsel for Maybank but also allegedly attended meetings where the bank recommended the setting up of SRC in the first place. As such, Nazlan was privy to matters which went to the heart of Najib’s defence in the SRC trial.
More interestingly, some of these documents also indicate the MACC, during its investigations of Nazlan earlier this year, had asked the judge about his involvement in the various Maybank meetings.
In his affidavit last week to adduce the new evidence, Najib said that he has been “made to understand that when asked by the MACC officer of his knowledge/involvement …, Justice Nazlan initially denied having any knowledge …, but only after being confronted with email threads and documents by the MACC officers (did Nazlan admit) that he was indeed involved.”
So, now not only is there strong evidence that the then governor of the central bank had lied about her involvement in the 1MDB linked funds transferred into Najib’s accounts, but that the High Court judge who had convicted Najib on seven charges of abuse of power and misappropriation of RM42 million funds belonging to SRC, had himself also allegedly been caught lying to investigators about his involvement in the setting up of SRC and deliberations on a RM4.17 billion loan to 1MDB.
In 2018, the Bar Council had demanded that the initial SRC trial judge Mohd Sofian Abd Razak recuse himself as he was the younger brother of Pahang state executive councillor and Benta Umno state assemblyperson Mohd Soffi Abdul Razak. Bar President George Varughese said then: “The rule of law demands that justice must not only be done but it must manifestly be seen to be done.”
However, when it was shown that, the current SRC trial judge was intimately involved in the setting up of SRC and appears to have lied to investigators, the Bar Council remains silent.
It is convenient to say that one was not aware of the situation at the time of the trial but now that you are aware of it, what action will you take?
Shouldn’t you be demanding for a mistrial because the Bar Council believes that, “justice must not only be done but it must manifestly be seen to be done” in this instance as well? Or is there a double standard going on here?
This Really Takes The Cake
But it was the Federal Court’s decision last Friday not to allow Najib’s newly constituted legal team more time to go through the evidence and prepare for his case, despite just being handed all this new evidence to sift through and prepare, that really takes the cake.
Here you have potential evidence that the country’s top financial regulator lied about her knowledge, role and involvement in the 1MDB related funds that went into Najib’s account and you also have potential evidence that the trial judge who convicted Najib was caught lying to investigators about his involvement in the very company that Najib is accused of stealing from.
And none of these details were provided to Najib (even though I believe the prosecution would have likely seen the MACC report on Zeti) and it was only because of anonymous whistle-blowers who wanted to see justice prevail, that these documents have only now come to light. So far, no one has questioned or even impeached the authenticity or credibility of any of these documents.
And we refuse to give a few weeks more to Najib to prepare for proper submissions before you?
I may not be a lawyer, but even I understand the concept of natural justice. This is not it. – New Malaysia Herald
About the writer: Romen Bose is an international correspondent with over 22 years of reporting experience in the region. He worked as a Political Communications Consultant for former Malaysian Premier Najib Razak for six years and he recently published his book Final Reckoning, an insider’s account of the fall of the Barisan Nasional government in 2018.
The points expressed in this article is that of the writer’s and do not necessarily represent the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.