Crime & Courts

Judge's past relationship with Jasmine Loo may lead to bias, Najib's lawyer tells court

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Razak may not get a fair trial if his corruption charges for misappropriating 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds continue to be heard before judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah, the High Court heard today.

Najib's lead counsel, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, submitted that Sequerah might be biassed towards his client due to the latter's past relationship with former 1MDB general counsel Jasmine Loo Ai Swan, who has links to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.

The defence, all this while, has contended that Low was the mastermind behind the global-scale IMDB financial scandal.

Shafee said Loo's name had been heavily mentioned during the trial, which commenced in 2019.

"The judge has heard over 167 days of evidence and Loo has been mentioned in evidence at least 656 times.

"Sequerah and Loo's relationship, as former legal partners and colleagues in the same firm, would have emulated into a relationship that transcends mere acquaintanceship.

"Loo should, at least, be a witness that must be called by the prosecution at the end of the prosecution's case.

"The judge would have to 'decide her fate' whether to accept her as a credible witness or, even worse, a witness who has committed serious crimes in the process of her testimony," he said in his submissions to recuse Sequerah.

On July 26, Sequerah disclosed that Loo had been his former colleague while in practice about 10 to 15 years ago.

Loo's name was heavily mentioned during Najib's ongoing trial for allegedly misappropriating RM2.3 billion from 1MDB.

It was reported that she was among the proxies working with Low to misappropriate millions of ringgit from the fund.

Loo, who also became a fugitive after the fall of the Barisan Nasional government in the 14th general election in 2018, was listed as a wanted person.

Shafee further contended today that Sequerah would have a pre-evaluation of Loo as a diligent person in the corporate field.

He argued that Sequerah might have been involved in the appointment of Loo during their services at the law firm.

"Being already appointed a partner purportedly on Jan 1, 2001, three years prior to Loo's appointment as a partner in the firm, it would be reasonable to perceive that Sequerah would have been involved in the appointment process (of Loo) as a partner at their firm Messrs Zain & Co," he said.

In 2018, Loo was charged with two counts of laundering more than US$6 million received in a Swiss account she controlled on Dec 6, 2012 and July 1, 2014.

This is believed to be a portion of the funds diverted from the first two 1MDB bond offerings underwritten by Goldman Sachs.

On Jan 20, the High Court allowed the government and a bank to forfeit one property, two luxury vehicles and RM22,600 in cash belonging to Loo.

Najib, 70, is facing four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

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