1MDB audit report hearing postponed after defence lawyer falls ill

Former prime minister Najib Razak is accused of tampering with the final audit report on 1MDB. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here today postponed the hearing of Najib Razak’s trial for tampering with the 1MDB audit report as a member of the defence team had fallen ill.

The court was supposed to hear the former prime minister’s application to disqualify ad hoc prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram from leading the prosecution team.

However, Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told trial judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan that co-counsel Rahmat Hazlan had been running a high fever all morning.

“I have arranged for a doctor to see him, and for him to go for a Covid-19 test today,” he added.

Shafee said the results of Rahmat’s test would be known tomorrow, and that he would be screened for the virus as well, for the sixth time.

Zaini then said the court would adjourn today’s proceeding, to resume tomorrow.

The court also fixed Aug 7 to hear the defence’s application to disqualify Sri Ram as the prosecution asked for more time to file their response.

Najib is seeking to disqualify Sri Ram on grounds of conflict of interest between the lawyer’s appointment as senior deputy public prosecutor and his legal practice.

He also claimed Sri Ram had displayed biased and preconceived notions against him even before he was charged.

Former attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali had affirmed an affidavit for Najib’s application to disqualify Sri Ram, claiming that Sri Ram met him in January 2018 and asked him to arrest Najib.

He also claimed that after Pakatan Harapan won the general election on May 9, 2018, Sri Ram told him that “he really wished I followed his advice and charged ‘that criminal Najib'”.

“I was surprised at his attitude which exemplifies an unreasonable approach, especially coming from an ex-apex court judge and eminent counsel who had always preached on the right to fair trial,” Apandi said when Sri Ram told him there was sufficient evidence to charge Najib over the funds in his bank account.

Sri Ram is currently leading the prosecution in Najib’s 1MDB and audit tampering cases.

He is also leading the prosecution in the corruption case of Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor.

Najib is accused of using his position to obtain immunity from legal action in relation to allegations that he tampered with the 1MDB audit report between Feb 22 and 26, 2016 while former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy is accused of abetting him.

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