No unfair trial against Najib in SRC case, appellate court heard

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by ARIF KARTONO

THERE was no prejudice or disadvantage against Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak (picture) in the SRC International Sdn Bhd trial involving the misappropriation of RM42 million funds, the Court of Appeal heard yesterday.

In Najib’s SRC International appeal, ad-hoc prosecutor Datuk V Sithambaram said a trial judge is not required to provide reasons in his oral ruling of a prima facie case that is established by the prosecution, hence ordering the accused to enter into defence.

“The contention that the appellant (Najib) has been prejudiced for not being able to put up his defence properly or submit on those missing reasons was without basis.

“It is submitted that a miscarriage of justice had not occurred since all the rules of procedure and evidence had been followed in this trial,” Sithambaram said at the hearing in Putrajaya yesterday.

He said the task of the defence is to respond to the prosecution’s case and not rebut the prima facie findings of the trial judge.

He also said calling for the defence of the accused based on an oral ruling was not a judgment.

“There is no such thing as two judgments, but only one when an accused is either acquitted or convicted of a criminal charge,” he said.

The prosecutor said submissions by the defence that the accused was denied a fair trial was a desperate argument.

Sithambaram said if the defence argument was accepted, no trial judge in future would give oral or written reasons to order the accused person to enter into defence.

“In our case, the trial judge gave key points to order Najib to enter defence for all the charges, although he was not required to.

“It was a bonus for the defence to get some points for Najib to enter defence, but yet they complain,” Sithambaram said.

He said the defence’s claim that the trial judge in the SRC International case, Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, was biased is “totally unwarranted”.

He added that such claims, made inside or outside of the court, were serious allegations.

“I am in support of the judgment demonstrating that those accusations against the judge are unwarranted from the evidence adduced.

“Totally unwarranted. There is no basis to say the judge was (acting as) ‘second prosecutor’ or hopelessly incompetent or demonstrated incompetence,” he said.

In a previous hearing session, the Court of Appeal reprimanded Najib’s lead defence counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah for improperly criticising Mohd Nazlan with remarks such as “hopelessly incompetent”.

Court of Appeal Justice Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil asked Muhammad Shafee to be more courteous in his words when describing the judge’s competency in presiding over the trial and that he can criticise the judge, but respectfully.

Sithambaram also rebutted the defence’s submission that the prosecution had “shifted goalposts” in the trial that was said to be in contrast to the prima facie case established at the end of the prosecution case.

He said the defence’s submission is an “ingenious” attempt to exclude relevant and admissible evidence unfavourable to Najib’s appeal.

“In conclusion, the learned judge rightly decided that there is no gap in the prosecution case and the prosecution had not departed from its case even with the admissions of the appellant in his cross-examination.

“The prosecution’s case was corroborated by the appellant’s evidence. The case of the prosecution narrative remains intact throughout the whole trial,” he said.

Najib was found guilty of all seven charges — one count of abuse of position, three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and three counts of money laundering — relating to the misappropriation of RM42 million belonging to SRC International.

The High Court sentenced Najib to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million for abuse of power relating to the misappropriation of RM42 million. He was also sentenced to 10 years of jail each for three CBT offences and 10 years of jail each for three money laundering offences committed in the fund’s embezzlement.