KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 18 — Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has failed in his bid to recuse Judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah from hearing his case involving the misappropriation of RM2.3 billion from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The Court of Appeal judge, who presided as the High Court judge today dismissed the former prime minister’s application to recuse him over his relationship with former 1MDB general counsel Jasmine Loo Ai Swan who he worked with during his tenure at Messrs Zain & Co.

In his decision, Justice Sequerah said since Loo left the legal firm in December 2008, there has been no communication either on a professional or personal basis between them.

“Since Loo’s departure on Dec 31, 2008, no material has been placed before the court to show any form of relationship, whether professional or personal and some 15 years have now elapsed.

“I do not think there’s another material placed before this court that the applicant (Najib) has succeeded in discharging the burden that there is a real danger of bias should I continue hearing this case and, if Loo became a witness, that I will not be able to objectively evaluate her credibility as a witness in an unbiased manner, either on a conscious or subconscious level,” said the judge.

Justice Sequerah further said there must be a clear nexus between the judge and the circumstances surrounding the making of the impugned decision, before his duty to disclose his past employment in Messrs Zain & Co.

“There was no inkling neither was there an iota of evidence to even form any basis upon which any form of relationship could possibly be conjured. Following the above, there was no necessity on my part to disclose the fact of my past employment in the said law firm in the first place.

“The decision is that in the premises and for the reasons expressed above, the application to recuse is hereby dismissed,” he said.

On Aug 14, Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah filed the application to recuse Sequerah after the latter disclosed that Loo had been his former colleague while in practice about 10 to 15 years ago. 

Loo, whose name was brought up over 600 times during the course of the 1MDB trial was considered a fugitive until recently, when she came under Malaysian police custody.

On July 12, Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail confirmed that Loo was arrested by police on July 7 to assist in the investigation into the misappropriation of 1MDB funds. 

Following today’s verdict, Muhammad Shafee said they will be filing an appeal and sought an order to suspend the trial pending the decision from the Court of Appeal.

However, it was denied by Justice Sequerah on the grounds that there are no special circumstances to warrant a stay of proceedings pending appeal.

Najib, 70, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes amounting to RM2.3 billion belonging to 1MDB and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

The trial continues on Aug 28.


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