KUALA LUMPUR (July 26): The much awaited testimony of Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz in former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's 1MDB-Tanore trial is set to begin on Thursday (July 27).
The former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor had turned up at the High Court to testify on Wednesday afternoon, but was kept waiting as the cross-examination of the 44th prosecution witness, Kevin Michael Swampillai, continued.
Zeti had been asked to come in the afternoon to testify as proceedings in the morning could not go on with Swampillai, because Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah was not present to cross-examine the former BSI banker.
However, when the trial resumed after lunch at 3pm with Zeti poised to take the stand, Shafee turned up to continue the cross-examination of Swampillai.
The lawyer apologised to presiding judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah and told him that he had a massive headache in the morning.
If Shafee had not turned up for the afternoon session, the prosecution would have called on Zeti to take the witness stand, while Swampillai’s cross-examination would have been put on hold.
The trial will continue on Thursday with Swampillai still on the witness stand. Shafee informed Sequerah that he only needed an hour to wrap up his cross-examination of the witness.
After that, Zeti will be called to testify against Najib.
The prosecution had indicated in October last year that it planned to call her to testify. The late Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, who was the lead prosecutor, had alluded to this during the testimony of former AmBank managing director Cheah Tek Kuang.
While cross-examining Cheah, Shafee indicated that he had reliable information that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) was a "frequent visitor" to Zeti's house. He had asked Cheah if he had seen Jho Low in Zeti's house. Sri Ram had then suggested that Shafee put the question directly to Zeti instead.
In 2021, former Goldman Sachs Southeast Asia chairman Tim Leissner had testified — in the 1MDB-linked bribery trial of ex-Goldman banker Roger Ng in New York — that Zeti’s husband Datuk Dr Tawfiq Ayman was bribed for BNM’s approval for an overnight transfer of US$1 billion for the PetroSaudi-1MDB joint-venture project.
Subsequently, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki told reporters that the MACC was tasked with repatriating some US$15.4 million of 1MDB funds linked to Tawfiq from Singapore, but added that the criminal side of the investigation was being handled by the police.
Najib is charged in the 1MDB-Tanore trial with four counts of abuse of power and 21 counts of money laundering involving RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds.