Defending Najib a difficult task, says lawyer

Muhammad Shafee says Najib was a victim of scam and argues witnesses were not telling the truth

by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by BERNAMA

LEAD defence counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah admitted that defending Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak (picture) in the best possible way in the SRC International Sdn Bhd trial is a difficult task.

Muhammad Shafee said the defence case was complicated by circumstances that Najib was the then prime minister (PM) and finance minister at the material time and prejudices towards him due to the positions.

“By virtue of the positions he was in, there are a lot of prejudices that could be drawn against him.

“Some of the questions posed are that he is a man of knowledge and finance, so how can he not be aware of the full circumstances of money coming into his accounts,” he said at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday.

In a defence closing submission, Muhammad Shafee said Najib was a victim of a scam devised by his surrounding people, including Low Taek Jho, or better known as Jho Low, former SRC International MD Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil and a group of rogue bankers.

That, he said, is an “extremely cumbersome and difficult” defence case.

“The circumstances surrounding him (Najib) would deprive him of the defence that would otherwise be available to the common man, who was then a sitting PM,” he said.

The lawyer said what transpired in Najib’s case did not follow the typical pathology of corruption, raising questions on the timeline that it took about 31⁄2 years from the issuance of the loans to SRC International to the RM42 million transfers into his bank accounts.

“Wouldn’t the most powerful man, if he was like that, namely corrupt in that sense, say: ‘Look, I am giving you RM4 billion. You would better give me the RM42 million upfront or even a day or two before this thing is done’?” he said.

The defence said Najib was not involved in any premeditated plan to siphon the RM42 million funds from SRC International.

Muhammad Shafee rebutted statements from former SRC International chairman Tan Sri Ismee Ismail and director Datuk Suboh Md Yassin who testified that they were unaware of the RM2 billion deposits of the loan acquired from the Retirement Fund Inc into an account with AmBank Group ending 736.

“They did not even know that SRC International had an account with AmBank. The money was hijacked from right under their noses,” he said.

Muhammad Shafee argued that the witnesses were not telling the truth.

The prosecution had concluded their submission on Wednesday.

Deputy public prosecutor Datuk V Sithambaram said the prosecution had dealt with all issues raised in the trial to prove their case against Najib.

“If everything is looked at in totality, the seven charges (against Najib) have been proven,” Sithambaram said.

Najib has been charged on three counts of criminal breach of trust, three counts of money laundering and one count of abuse of position to the SRC International funds totalling RM42 million.

The former PM is facing a maximum jail sentence of 20 years and fine for the crimes, upon conviction.