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"What becomes [an issue] in this trial is the role played by Loo in the affairs of 1MDB from 2011 onwards, and not her past employment in Messrs Zain & Co between 1998 and 2008.”

KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 17): The main issue in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd Tanore (1MDB-Tanore) trial pertaining to former 1MDB general counsel Jasmine Loo is her involvement in the scandal, and not her previous employment.

The prosecution contended this in reply to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's application to recuse presiding judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah, where Najib is on trial over the misappropriation of RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds.

"The issues pertaining to Loo's involvement in 1MDB started sometime in the year 2011 as evidenced from testimonies of witnesses in [this trial] especially [former 1MDB chief executive officer] Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi.

"What becomes [an issue] in this trial is the role played by Loo in the affairs of 1MDB from 2011 onwards, and not her past employment in Messrs Zain & Co between 1998 and 2008," the prosecution said in their written submission.

In asking for the court to dismiss the ex-PM's application, the prosecution contended that there is no nexus (connection) between the issues in this trial and the past employment history that Sequerah and Loo share.

During submissions on Thursday (Aug 17), deputy public prosecutor Kamal Bahrin Omar also argued that there was no real danger of bias, and that the defence lacked evidence to support this claim.

Kamal noted that the firm did not do any work for 1MDB. He also said that there was no personal friendship between the judge and Loo. Furthermore, he highlighted that there was also no prior link between the judge to 1MDB.

Najib's application, filed on Aug 14, comes after Sequerah's disclosure last month that he had worked with Loo more than a decade ago.

Sequerah had said that they were partners in the law firm when the judge was still a practising lawyer 10 to 15 years ago.

The judge started in the firm as a legal assistant in 1996 until 2000. He was then made partner in 2001 and was in that position until June 2014. He joined the judiciary and was elevated to the Court of Appeal in January this year.

Loo, a central figure in the 1MDB scandal, fled Malaysia in 2018 and was a wanted person by the authorities. She was reportedly arrested by Malaysian police on July 7 this year.

Her lawyers have said that she surrendered herself and intends to help Malaysia recover 1MDB assets.  

In gist, Najib's defence team is seeking for the trial judge's recusal and to disqualify him from hearing the matter further, or from making any further ruling with regards to the case.

In the event that the application is allowed, they will also seek a court order for the trial be nullified and for the ex-PM to be granted a discharge and acquittal, or for the matter to be tried afresh with a new High Court judge, or that the trial continues before a new judge.

Shafee: There is real danger of bias

Earlier during submissions, Najib’s defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah argued that there is real danger of bias should Sequerah continue to hear the matter.

Shafee argued that Loo had to be called as a witness or at the least offered as a possible witness for the defence.

He added that even if Loo was not called to testify in the trial, she is still an important player who had a role in the matrix of the case. The court, he argued, had to make a value judgement, particularly in relation to the documents that were prepared by Loo, which has been cited by other witnesses in this trial.

The senior lawyer questioned if such a determination could be made.

He argued that Loo's name had been mentioned during the proceedings for at least 656 times over the course of 167 trial days.

Shafee added that Loo's contribution to the 1MDB scandal was substantial and not minimal, given her role in attempting to legalise fraudulent documents.

In this trial, Najib faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

Sequerah is to deliver his decision on the matter on Friday (Aug 18).

The Edge is covering the trial live here.

Users of The Edge Markets app may tap here to access the live report.

Edited ByAniza Damis
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