PUTRAJAYA (Aug 11): The hearing of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's discovery appeal in the Court of Appeal on Thursday (Aug 11) — to obtain from the prosecution documents in relation to former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz's family and US financial institution Goldman Sachs, and their dealings with fugitive Low Taek Jho — was postponed.
This follows Najib's lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah being unwell, according to lawyer Effa Azuin Aidrul Hisham of Scivetti & Co.
“Shafee woke up at 5am this morning (Thursday) feeling unwell, and went to the clinic at 8am and obtained a medical certificate. As a result, we apply for a short adjournment of the hearing of this appeal,” Effa said.
The three-member Court of Appeal bench consisting of Datuk P Ravinthran, Datuk Abu Bakar Jais and Datuk Hashim Hamzah inquired as to what ailment Shafee had, and Effa replied that several in Shafee's law firm had fever, and several of them were also on medical leave.
Effa also sought the court's permission to do away with Najib's presence in Thursday's proceedings conducted online.
Deputy public prosecutors Ahmad Akram Gharib and Mustaffa P Kunyalam said they had no objection to the short adjournment sought by Shafee, but left it to the court with regard to Najib's non-attendance.
Lawyer Sofea Shereen Mohd Salim appeared for Zeti and her family.
After a brief break, Ravinthran granted a short adjournment, and ordered both the defence and the prosecution to have a case management on Friday.
The appellate court also allowed Najib's presence in Thursday's proceedings to be dispensed with.
On July 21 last year, trial High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah dismissed Najib's application for discovery to get documents in relation to Goldman Sachs and also Zeti's family with regard to his ongoing 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial.
In court cases, discovery applications can be made for parties to obtain documents in relation to their cases, and the court presiding the trial can evaluate whether to allow or dismiss the motion.
Sequerah ruled that the discovery application in relation to Goldman Sachs is merely a “fishing expedition” from Najib, as the prosecution had already informed that such documents sought by the former prime minister are not in their possession.
“This is casting the net far and wide in expectations that something useful may materialise,” the judge added.
Najib was seeking to obtain bank statements and other related documents of certain companies believed to be related to Low, better known as Jho Low, as well as Zeti's husband Datuk Dr Tawfiq Ayman and their son.
This followed revelations that Jho Low had transferred funds to Tawfiq's company in Singapore, and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission confirmed late last year that the funds had been returned from the island republic.
Zeti is scheduled to testify in Najib's 1MDB trial, where she is listed as the 26th prosecution witness.
With regard to Zeti's family, Sequerah ruled that the court could not see how obtaining the documents from Zeti and her family is relevant to the defence’s case.
He also called it a “collateral attack” on the former BNM governor to obtain the documents, saying Najib is trying to question Zeti's credibility. The judge suggested that the defence can question Zeti when she is called to the witness stand.
Najib is facing four counts of abuse of power, and 21 counts of money laundering of RM2.28 billion in 1MDB funds, of which he has claimed trial in ongoing proceedings before Sequerah.