No link in 1MDB trial issues and connection between judge and Jasmine Loo, DPP says

KUALA LUMPUR: There is no nexus between the issues in the RM2.28bil 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) case and the past acquaintance of presiding judge Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah and former 1MDB general counsel Jasmine Loo, the High Court heard.

Deputy public prosecutor Kamal Baharin Omar said in court on Thursday (Aug 17) that Loo's involvement in 1MDB began sometime in 2011.

Of issue in the trial was the role she played in the company from 2011 onwards and not her past employment in Messrs Zain & Co between 1998 and 2008, he added.

In an affidavit affirmed by a partner from Zain & Co, it was stated that Loo left the firm on Dec 31, 2008 whereas Justice Sequerah continued to practice in the firm until his elevation as a Judicial Commissioner (JC) on June 20, 2014.

"Therefore, based on this fact alone, it was clear that Your Lordship and Loo were no longer in the same firm for about six years before Your Lordship's appointment as JC," the prosecutor said.

The prosecution contended that there was not even a need for Justice Sequerah to disclose the relationship at all as the information could be found from public records.

On July 26, Justice Sequerah revealed that he worked with 1MDB former general counsel Jasmine Loo in the same legal firm years ago after Loo's name was brought up in the trial.

Loo was considered a fugitive and believed to have been living overseas for years until recently, when she was taken into Malaysian police custody.

This prompted Datuk Seri Najib Razak to file a notice of motion on Aug 14 to recuse the judge from the case.

In the event the recusal is allowed, Najib is seeking for an order of nullification of the proceedings and a discharge and acquittal, or for the case to be tried afresh (de novo) with a newly-appointed High Court judge, or for the proceedings to continue with a new judge.

DPP Kamal Baharin said Najib did not provide any explanation or evidence to show that the relationship between the judge and Loo went beyond the acquaintanceship of former colleagues.

He submitted that the application had failed to satisfy the test of real danger of bias and sought for the court to dismiss the application.

Meanwhile, Najib's lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah earlier submitted that it was common knowledge that Loo was a fugitive and a wanted person.

He noted that there were other judges and judicial commissioners who recused themselves from hearing cases relating to Najib and 1MDb for "far less serious grounds".

"In this case, Justice Sequerah has heard over 167 days of evidence and Loo has been mentioned in evidence at least 656 times," Muhammad Shafee submitted.

He said in that period, the judge would have been directed to and considered evidence that would have undeniably influenced his subconscious and given rise to impressions.

"There is as such a real danger that the learned judge would not be able to determine, nor be seen as having determined, with the necessary level of impartiality.

"This would undermine public confidence in the due administration of justice," he said, in seeking for the judge to recuse himself.

After hearing the submissions, Justice Sequerah then fixed Friday (Aug 18) to deliver his decision on the recusal application.

Najib, 70, is on trial for 25 charges in total: four for abuse of power that allegedly brought him the financial benefit to the tune of RM2.28bil; and 21 for money laundering involving the same amount of money.

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