Decision on Najib's bid to recuse 1MDB trial judge Sequerah tomorrow
KUALA LUMPUR - The High Court here fixed tomorrow for the decision on Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's application to recuse trial judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah from presiding over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) proceeding.
Justice Sequerah set the date after hearing submissions from deputy public prosecutor Kamal Baharin Omar and the former premier's lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.
The matter (recusal) was raised after Justice Sequerah revealed that he had worked with 1MDB’s former general counsel Jasmine Loo Ai Swan, who is now under police custody.
Before fixing the date, Justice Sequerah who is currently a Court of Appeal judge said that during his tenure at Messrs Zain & Co with Loo, he never dealt with the 1MDB issues and there was no 1MDB dealt with by the firm at the martial time.
Today, Muhammad Shafee submitted that since Justice Sequerah had been working with Loo, it could deter the judge from being a fair and free-minded observer in hearing Loo’s testimony if she is called to testify.
Muhammad Shafee also told the court that Justice Sequerah has to decide on Loo's credibility because she played an important and substantive role (in 1MDB) as she basically carried out fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low's instruction "to legalised what was illegal”.
He also claimed that the judge will be in "a difficult position” to decide if Loo is to be impeached for making contradictory statements.
"Such a decision will post a conflict and will be embarrassing to Your Lordship (Justice Sequerah), because of your relationship as ex-partner (in law firm),” Muhammad Shafee said.
At this juncture, Justice Sequerah asked: "Given that I had disclosed about it (being an ex-partner of the law firm) you don't think I can decide this (1MDB case) impartially?
Muhammad Shafee replied: "Your Lordship still has to decide on facts presented - through other witnesses - on Loo's role in 1MDB as well as to hold her impeached if necessary.”
To this, the judge countered that he is prepared to impeach her in the event it arises, citing that she is no different from other witnesses.
Meanwhile, in objecting to the application, Kamal Baharin countered that it was clear that Loo had left the said firm on Dec 31, 2008, whereas Justice Sequerah continued to practice in that firm until before his elevation as Judicial Commissioner (JC) on June 20, 2014.
"It was clear that the two were no longer in the same firm for about six years before Justice Sequerah’s appointment as JC. The role played by Loo in 1MDB started sometime in 2011 while her affairs during her past employment in Messrs Zain & Co was between 1998 and 2008.
"There was no nexus between the issues in this trial and the past relationship between Your Lordship and his former partner in legal practice and we would further submit that there is not even a need for Your Lordship to disclose this relationship at all because this can be found from public record,” he said.
On July 12, Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail confirmed that Loo was arrested by police on July 7 to assist in the investigation into the misappropriation of 1MDB funds.
Najib, 70, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes amounting to RM2.3 billion belonging to 1MDB and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.
The trial will resume tomorrow with Muhammad Shafee being expected to continue cross-examining former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz. - BERNAMA