KUALA LUMPUR: Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, the stepson of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, may be called as a prosecution witness in the former prime minister’s trial involving RM2.3 bil in 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram told High Court Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah today that Riza has indicated his readiness to give evidence for the prosecution in the case.
“Following this we may have to revise our list of witnesses,” he said on the resumption of Najib’s trial.
Riza, 43, had been charged with five money-laundering charges involving US$248 mil (RM1.25 bil) linked to 1MDB but was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) by the Sessions Court on May 14.
The prosecution had applied for Riza to be given a DNAA after an agreement had been arrived at between the prosecution and the accused under the terms of which the federal government would receive a substantial sum running into several million ringgit.
It was a conditional discharge, whereby the prosecution had the right to reinstate the charges if the agreement was not satisfactorily completed.
At a separate High Court today, the court allowed the government to forfeit almost RM600,000 in cash belonging to Riza that was seized by the police two years ago.
Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan made the ruling during case management of the forfeiture application filed by the government over the seizure of hundreds of items and cash from Najib, his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, their three children and 13 others for being allegedly linked to the 1MDB scandal.
He made the ruling after being informed by deputy public prosecutor Faten Hadni Khairuddin on the settlement reached between the prosecution and Riza for the latter to be given DNAA.
This was on the agreement that Riza agreed to forfeit the money seized by the Malaysian government.
The money referred to was RM537,000, Pound Sterling 2,700 and Sri Lanka Rupees 2,870,000 seized from the house occupied by Riza, Najib and Rosmah on May 17, 2018.
Meanwhile, the prosecution in Najib’s 1MDB trial would initiate contempt proceedings against him over his remarks in relation to the trial.
This was raised by Sri Ram at the start of the trial today.
He informed the court that the news published by Reuters on March 4 carried remarks from Najib who said that he was expecting a more conducive atmosphere for a fair trial with the fall of the Pakatan Harapan government.
“That is a serious allegation. It seems like Your Honour’s court emanated a bad atmosphere before the government changed. I am advised to take contempt proceedings against the accused because this is a very serious allegation,” Sri Ram said.
The prosecution would be making a formal application, he added.
Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah countered that the remarks were not meant for the court.
He also said there were no contempt proceedings brought against former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad following his remarks about his client (Najib).
“The former prime minister (during Pakatan Harapan government) seemed to declare my client as a ‘penyangak’, a robber, and a thief.
“Perhaps with a change of government, with getting rid of Dr Mahathir, it is more conducive for my client. It (the remark) does not denote Your Honour at all,” said Muhammad Shafee.
Najib, 67, faces four charges of abusing his position to obtain gratification totalling RM2.3 bil in 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money. – May 19, 2020, Bernama