Former prime minister Najib Razak is “shocked” that he was not acquitted of the seven charges relating to the SRC International Sdn Bhd case.
“He was expecting to be acquitted of all the charges,” Najib’s lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told reporters after Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali delivered the oral judgment this morning.
Nazlan decided that Najib has to enter his defence in the SRC International case, ruling that the prosecution has successfully presented credible evidence to prove all elements of the seven charges against him and which would warrant a conviction if Najib fails to rebut or explain them.
Najib then said he would choose to give a sworn statement from the witness stand in his own defence, which means he would be subjected to cross-examination by the prosecution.
Najib who was in the dock appeared calm when the judge handed down the ruling before a packed courtroom.
Dressed in a dark grey suit and an orange tie, he remained expressionless while his supporters stayed silent when Nazlan made the ruling.
He is the country’s first prime minister to find himself in the dock and is looking at a jail term of up to 20 years, if found guilty.
Among those who were present in the packed courtroom were Najib’s daughter Nooryana Najwa, opposition leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Umno supreme council member Mohd Puad Zarkashi, former Jerai MP Jamil Khir Baharom and MIC deputy president M Saravanan.
Nooryana was seen shaking her head as the judge read out the verdict while the other supporters silently left the courtroom after hearing was adjourned.
Nazlan, who took about an hour to read out his summary judgment, dissected each and every charge against Najib and gave the reasoning behind his ruling.
Meanwhile, Shafee said he, too, had anticipated an acquittal based on their overwhelming submissions.
“We were confident on all seven charges that there would be an acquittal at this stage because we have rebutted the presumption (of guilt) even within the prosecution’s case.
“He’s surprised. Shocked is the word.”
However, he said one could never predict the outcome of a trial, as a judge would have his or her own views and interpretation of things.
“What can I say…the learned judge saw things differently and we respect his views.”
In a Facebook posting after the proceedings, Najib said that the ruling would enable him to call his own witnesses to testify.
He said so far, only the prosecution had been giving their version of events.
“So, by giving the defence an opportunity to call our witnesses, it will enable me to give a true picture of events and prove that I am not guilty.
“InsyaAllah, this is an opportunity to clear my name in court,” he said.
Shafee said he was said that the defence was called, but in many ways, I was also happy for two reasons.
“One is: You will now hear the real story from Najib…his version of what happened in SRC International.
“We will hear whether or not he was actually in control of SRC International,” he said.
Asked how long he expects the defence would take to present its case, Shafee said it may take up to March or April next year, before the trial is concluded.
However, he said the entire case may go on until after the next general election, if it goes to the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court.
On how today’s ruling will affect Najib’s 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial, Shafee said “technically, it wouldn’t”.
“Because this is SRC International, where it is all local transactions. It is not 1MDB’s money.
“I think we are doing extremely well (with the 1MDB case). I mean, you have heard all the witnesses, and you have to stop and ask for a while whether this is a joke that is going on,” he said, adding that he plans to call several witnesses to testify during the defence stage, including professionals and experts.
Asked on Jho Low’s recent settlement with the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) and how it will affect Najib’s defence strategy, Shafee said it would not harm his case.
“It actually indicates that Jho Low is the one who has got something to worry about.
“Apart from pulling a Houdini on us, the others who were complicit with him have also disappeared and are on the run.
“The fact that he has settled US$1 billion shows he took the money. In fact, you and I know he took something like US$5 or US$6 billion,” he said.
Shafee said Najib is not going to run away from the fact that he knew Low.
He said his client is, however, going to dispute that he knew about Low’s criminal intentions.
“You must bear in mind that in this case, you have to distinguish (between) whether Najib was naïve or too trusting, from whether he had a criminal mind, like that of Jho Low.
“To convict him, you must be satisfied that he had the same mind as Jho Low’s.
“In terms of 1MDB, all the money that was sent to him was donation money. What did he spend it on? Did he buy Balenciaga, Bally or other branded items? He spent it all on welfare and political purposes, you know that,” he said.
Shafee said one has to ask oneself whether this is the mentality of a thief or that of a person who trusted the people around him, and they let him down.
It was reported that the DoJ had reached a settlement to recover more than US$700 million worth of assets from Low and his family using funds misappropriated from 1MDB.
The assets are located in the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
The settlement, the DoJ said, forces Low and his family to relinquish hundreds of billions of dollars in ill-gotten gains that were intended to be used for the benefit of the Malaysian people.
Low, however, maintains that the agreement does not constitute an admission of guilt, liability or any form of wrongdoing by him or the asset owners.
Najib did not speak to the media, neither did Attorney-General Tommy Thomas and ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram.
Also present at today’s hearing was the lead prosecutor for Najib’s ongoing 1MDB trial, senior deputy public prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram.
The SRC International trial will be from December 3 to 19, with more dates to be set later.