What was supposed to be a simple case mention for Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s graft-related charges turned into a war of words that lasted almost an hour.
His lawyers and the prosecution team argued mainly about the format of the documents served.
Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the documents were served in a rather unusual way – a CD-ROM – and that some of the documents contained could not be read or opened. He even offered to pay for the cost of printing the documents.
He said a CD was given to Najib on Aug 8 and when Najib visited his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters in Putrajaya on Wednesday, an officer attempted to serve another CD.
“This is probably the only case, as far as I’m concerned, where a 51A document is given through a CD.
“In all other cases, we are given documents that are copied and bound, not only to us but also to the court,” Muhammad Shafee said, adding that some documents could not be opened and that it was confusing and had no indexing.
The case mention at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday before Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali began with Sulaiman raising the issue of serving documents under Section 51A of the Criminal Procedure Code, saying the prosecution had been “severely unfortunate”, being unable to do so despite all efforts.
“My learned friend seems to imply that something sinister is being done by the prosecution.
“We’ve done the best possible and we’re not in any way trying to steal a march on the accused or do anything underhand.
“The law requires us to serve the accused and that is what we’ve been trying to do.
“We are also serving (the documents) to my learned friend, but he seems to share the characteristics of his client in being quite unable to be present when they are required,” Sulaiman said, adding that there had also been no response from Shafee on suggestions by the prosecution for a pre-trial conference.
“I don’t know why my learned friends are so reluctant to meet us in a pretrial conference. Maybe because there’s no publicity in the meeting,” Sulaiman said.
Najib’s counsel Harvinderjit Singh said they were not making any implications of sinister motives.
Sulaiman said while the defence clarified that they did not make any accusations against the prosecution, the overall attitude of the defence made it seem as if the prosecution was preparing a sinister trap for them.
Shafee said the documents should be given to them in a proper format so that it was something they could digest and that it was also a standard practice for documents to be served to the counsel or solicitor, not to the client.
“They can charge us if they feel the government’s money is so little now. It’s not something conventional, but if they feel they should charge us, so be it.
“We want to move on with the trial. Don’t say that we are dragging our feet. Do what you have to do. You are investigator, you are prosecutor, so serve us a proper copy,” Shafee said.
Sulaiman said the prosecution will serve the documents in hard copy within two weeks.
“If it’s the quality of the documents, that’s what we’re stuck with. It’s not that they purposely darkened or obliterated the documents.
“To say that (the documents cannot be read), how do we know this is indeed what the documents are? This is close to insulting.
“Get on with the trial, get on with the law and stop painting all these insinuations and wasting time,” Sulaiman said.
He also told Shafee to keep up with the times in response to his grouse over the CD.
Nazlan fixed the pre-trial conference on Oct 25 and the next case management on Oct 31.
The trial has been tentatively fixed from Feb 18 next year.
Najib, who was in the dock, looked calm, with his head bowed most of the time.
He did not speak to his lawyers or exchange pleasantries with them. None of his family members was present.
Shafee met reporters outside the courthouse after the case mention and expressed his annoyance over the format of the documents served.
“Why are you mistreating us and giving us a CD format when thousands, maybe millions of other accused persons are given hard copy documents?” he said.