by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
FORMER Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak (picture) will be taking the witness stand in his defence for the first time today against criminal charges in the SRC International Sdn Bhd trial.
The defendant, who was not acquitted from all the charges related to the embezzlement of SRC International’s RM42 million funds, will be called in to testify as the first defence witness at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
Last month, the prosecution established a prima facie case for all the seven charges — one for power abuse, three for criminal breach of trust and three for money laundering — involving RM42 million owned by the former 1Malaysia Development Bhd subsidiary.
Najib has three options to answer the case, namely to give sworn evidence in the witness box and be subjected to cross-examination by the prosecutors, or give an unsworn statement from the dock without being cross-examined, or to remain silent.
The eldest son of the country’s second PM chose to testify under oath and answer questions by the prosecutors to prove his case.
Najib has everything to gain or lose by telling his side of the story from the witness stand.
He could not afford any missteps, or his testimony would otherwise hurt the case instead of helping it.
“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,” lead defence counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said in a press conference after the court decision was made on the prosecution case in November.
Muhammad Shafee said his client was “shocked” that he was not acquitted from all the charges linked to SRC International’s RM42 million funds.
Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said the court found the elements of using position, dishonesty and money laundering by the accused had been proven by the prosecution.
“In stark contrast, however, the accused’s personal involvement and interventions in the name of either the PM or the finance minister on SRC International’s matters with the assistance of Nik Faisal (Ariff Kamil) being one of his principal proxies were disproportionately and glaringly both pervasive and imperious,” Mohd Nazlan said in reading his judgement.
In a separate case management, Mohd Nazlan dismissed the defence’s application to obtain a list of witnesses who had recorded their statements to the prosecution, but was not offered to the defence.
Mohd Nazlan said the submission appeared to be a fishing expedition, and the statements taken remain privileged and not subject to disclosure for inspection at any stage of the trial.
The prosecution, led by Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, had offered 66 witnesses to the defence. But a fast judgement to the trial is not expected.
Muhammad Shafee said the SRC International case will “almost definitely” reach the Federal Court and it will extend beyond the next general election.
The trial is scheduled to run today and tomorrow and then continues from Dec 9-19 (except for Friday).
Najib faces a maximum jail sentence of 20 years and fine for the crimes, upon conviction.