KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah today sternly and firmly told Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyers that they cannot keep on postponing their cross-examination of witnesses in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) trial.

This took place after Najib’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed informed the court that Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah will be handling the cross-examination of 40th prosecution witness Kok Tuck Cheong.

The 67-year-old Kok is the former managing director of AmInvestment Bank and had read out his witness statement in court today, and had completed his examination-in-chief stage.

Wan Aizuddin then requested for the defence to be allowed to postpone its cross-examination of Kok as Shafee was handling another case in another High Court here this morning.

Prosecution witnesses would provide testimony at the examination-in-chief stage which is when they will testify and answer questions from the prosecution to provide clarification, before answering questions by Najib’s lawyers during the cross-examination stage and before the prosecution then asks final questions at the re-examination stage for the witness to clarify their answers. It is only after the re-examination stage that a witness is considered to have completed their testimony in court.

Former managing director AmInvestment Bank Berhad Kok Tuck Cheong leaves the Kuala Lumpur High Court October 11, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara

1MDB trial’s lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram then immediately highlighted to the court that the prosecution has been kept waiting, with several prosecution witnesses still waiting for Najib’s lawyers to start or complete cross-examination.

“We have stacked up witnesses. We have Mark Lim who has not completed his evidence, we have Mr Cheah who has not completed his evidence, we have this witness, we have Mr Yap. I am not in a position to call my next witness, unless all these people are cleared up, otherwise I’m losing count,” he told the High Court.

Sri Ram said this has also caused difficulty for the prosecution in arranging for re-examination and that it “makes our lives very difficult”, stressing that he had already tried to accommodate as much as possible.

Judge Collin then also expressed his frustration as he gave a firm instruction to Najib’s legal team, saying: “I think I have also accommodated as much as I can. From now on, if Tan Sri Shafee is unable to conduct cross-examination, Encik Wan, you have to step up. I have accommodated, we can’t keep reserving cross-examination and have the trial conducted by instalment over and over again.”

“I have accommodated as much as I can, I cannot go beyond this,” the judge said, saying that he would otherwise consider the defence team to have completed cross-examination if they do not carry out any cross-examination while waiting for Shafee to be available.

Wan Aizuddin said he did ask questions during cross-examination to certain prosecution witnesses, and that he was not prepared to conduct cross-examination at this point.

The judge however again firmly affirmed his instruction and highlighted the High Court’s time that would be wasted with the deferred cross-examination of Kok.

“We have to choose, we cannot have it both ways, this is how the trial is going to be run henceforth, it’s up to you all,” he said. “What I’m saying, hereafter, there will be no more reserving of cross-examination, that’s what I’m saying. So what do we do now with the time we have left, what do we do now until afternoon?”

“So I’m going to lose few hours and then we resume, 2.30pm, Tan Sri Shafee will be here. What I’m saying is beyond today, I’m unable to accede to request from defence to reserve any more cross-examination,” he said.

The judge pointed out that Najib’s legal team is a big team and Wan Aizuddin would be able to carry out any cross-examination without having to wait for Shafee to do it personally.

“You all have a big team, I think you are more than capable of cross-examining, you are familiar with the facts of the case, you have cross-examined other witnesses. This is something to take note of for future witnesses, I’m unable to accede to any more requests. I suppose we have to reconvene at 2.30pm,” the judge said.

Lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court September 27, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Sri Ram pointed out that he himself has other court cases to handle as a lawyer but that he has made adjustments to be able to attend the 1MDB trial, including requesting to another court to reschedule a case which involves his 94-year-old client and also coming straight to the 1MDB trial whenever he finishes with other cases in Putrajaya.

“So we are also making attempts, we are making adjustments you see,” he said, adding: “So we all have to adjust ourselves.”

The judge then again asked Wan Aizuddin to take note of his instructions while noting that this was not of Wan Aizuddin’s doing, and stressing that the latter is more than capable of taking over when Shafee is not available for the 1MDB trial.

“It’s fair of me to give you advance warning. This will be the situation, if Tan Sri Shafee is unable to cross-examine and you are unable to step up, the prosecution will re-examine. We cannot be waiting for other courts to finish,” the judge said.

Wan Aizuddin then replied: “Yang Arif, I duly note Yang Arif’s concern and direction as well as concerns raised by my learned friend. I will inform senior counsel and we will act accordingly.”

Najib was seen in the courtroom today wearing a light brown suit with a brown tie, while Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and his daughter Nooryana Najwa were present in the courtroom during the trial.

The trial will continue this afternoon.