Shafee in appeal: Judge in Najib’s SRC trial erred

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Najib’s lead counsel claims there was contradictory, inconsistent and unreliable testimony of one key witness and that the prosecution’s case should have “collapsed”.

The High Court judge who convicted and sentenced Datuk Seri Najib Razak to 12 years’ jail and fined him RM210 million had “bent over backwards” to find the former prime minister guilty of offences related to the SRC international Sdn Bhd case.

Najib’s lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali had acted like a second prosecutor in the trial which saw his client ending up being found guilty of power abuse, criminal breach of trust and money laundering.

The senior lawyer did not mince his words about the judge’s findings during his submissions on the second day of Najib’s appeal hearing at the Court of Appeal here today.

“The judge was bending over backwards…he took on the role of a second prosecutor to save the prosecution’s case.

“Their case would have collapsed based on the contradictory, inconsistent and unreliable testimony of one key witness alone,” he said, referring to the testimony of former SRC International director Datuk Suboh Md Yassin’s evidence as a prosecution witness in the case.

Shafee pointed out that during the trial, 42nd prosecution witness Suboh admitted during cross-examination that his signatures on six letters authorising the transfer of funds into Najib’s personal account may have been forged.

During Najib’s RM42 million SRC trial at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on July 2, 2019, Suboh had agreed with the defence’s suggestion that the witness’ signatures, on documents authorising the transfer of funds from two companies into Najib’s account, may not have been his.

This contradicted the former SRC International director telling the prosecution a day earlier (July 1, 2019) that he signed the bank documents himself.

The bank documents were in relation to the alleged transfers of RM42 million from Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd (GMSB) and Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd (IPSB) to Najib’s bank account. It is the prosecution’s contention that the funds were from SRC.

Shafee said Nazlan had also relied on hearsay evidence of witnesses who were not called to testify in the trial.

“The judge was a former banker before, so maybe he had conjured his own version of what can happen (in banking transactions),” he said at one point.

There were also some interesting moments when Shafee tried to impress upon the three-member bench on the logic of Najib taking only RM42 million of SRC International money when the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)-linked company had been given a loan of RM4 billion.

“This RM42 million would amount to less than one percent of the RM4 billion…yet my client is accused of taking a mere RM42 million!”

Hearing this, Judge Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, who is heading the bench, remarked: “… a mere RM42 million you say?”

The judge’s sarcasm took Shafee by surprise, but he immediately answered by saying: “Yes Yang Arif…you are shocked about the RM42 million but I urge Yang Arif to also think of the RM4 billion.”

Shafee said the authorities had actually resorted to reverse engineering in laying the charges against Najib after the former prime minister was ousted following the 14th general election.

“What happened is after GE14, the authorities were bent on going after Najib. So, they ended up doing reverse engineering to show RM42 million came into his personal accounts.”

Najib is appealing his conviction and sentencing to committing criminal breach of trust (CBT), money-laundering and abuse of position involving RM42 million of SRC funds.

He was sentenced to 12 years’ jail and fine RM210 million after being found guilty by judge Nazlan on July 28 last year.

This afternoon also, the media lost access to the livestream of court proceedings for around two hours.

Reporters were informed of a disruption of the process control network (PCN) and Internet access.

The interrupted livestream was also raised by Najib’s daughter, Noorhayana Najwa, in an Instagram story, in which she alleged that during that period, Shafee had made other allegations against judge Nazlan of his handling of the case.

In his appeal petition, Najib, 67, has submitted 307 grounds on why he should be cleared of the charges.

He is currently out on bail of RM2 million in two sureties pending appeal.

The Court of Appeal has fixed three weeks this month to hear the appeal.

The chairperson of the three-person bench is Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil with two other judges Has Zanah Mehat and Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera.

The appeal hearing continues tomorrow.