Ex-1MDB CEO’s entire witness statement allowed to be read despite defence’s hearsay claim

Ex-1MDB CEO’s entire witness statement allowed to be read despite defence’s hearsay claim
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KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 10): 1MDB chief executive office Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman's witness statement in the 1MDB-Tanore trial has been accepted for now by the High Court despite former premier Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s team claiming that the statement was hearsay.

Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah ruled that he will make his decision on the admissibility of the witness statement at the end of the prosecution’s case after it has called all its witnesses and introduced all necessary evidence.

“The decision to determine if the witness statement constitutes hearsay is to be suspended till the end of the prosecution's case,” he said.

“Certain evidence may emerge at a later stage that will make the passages admissible. The court is therefore not in a position to dismiss evidence at this stage,” Collin said. “It is therefore premature to decide admissibility at this stage.”

Justice Sequerah had heard submissions from lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram this whole week on the arguments for and against the admissibility of the witness statement.

Muhammad Shafee had applied to the court for certain paragraphs in Mohd Hazem's witness statement to be dropped on grounds of hearsay.

In the legal context, hearsay is an out-of-court statement used in court as evidence for a case.

Shafee had previously argued that the witness statement read in its entirety would prejudice his client as there were serious allegations made against Najib.

On this, Collin said that the only prejudice would lie with the prosecution as if the objected parts are omitted, the prosecution would be deprived of the opportunity to tell its version of events in the 1MDB scandal, preventing it from making its case.

“However, the defence does not suffer prejudice. If the passages fall under hearsay the defence has the liberty of tailoring their cross examination to address the hearsay,” the judge said.

He ruled that the argument on prejudice has no merit and the witness statement is to be admitted in its entirety next Monday when Hazam takes the stand as the 10th prosecution witness.

Justice Sequerah made his ruling today after two and a half hours of submissions from both parties.

Najib is facing four counts of abuse of power for using his position as the then prime minister, finance minister and 1MDB board of advisers’ chairman to receive gratification worth RM2.28 billion.

He also faces 21 counts of money laundering involving over RM4.3 billion.

S Kanagaraju