Day 1 of Najib’s last SRC International appeal: Bid to present new evidence mere ‘camouflage’, prosecution tells Federal Court
PUTRAJAYA, Aug 15 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s bid to present additional evidence in his final SRC International Sdn Bhd appeal in an attempt to void the trial that saw him convicted and sentenced to 12 years’ jail and fined RM210 million is but a mere camouflage to fish for evidence, the Federal Court heard today.
Ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram said this during the prosecution’s rebuttal in today’s hearing before a five-judge panel chaired by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat.
At the start of hearing following lunch recess, Sithambaram submitted that the threshold requirement for admission of additional or fresh vivo voce (oral) evidence — which Najib alleged was suppressed or unknown to him during the SRC trial — involving five named witnesses did not stand up to scrutiny and failed to fulfil the legal threshold for admittance.
“The application is not supported by proper affidavits (by these persons) for this court to act upon,” Sithambaram said.
Accordingly, the five named witnesses were 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) former chief executive Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigating officer Rosli Hussain and three MACC witnesses in relation to MACC’s on-going investigation involving SRC International trial judge Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali over alleged conflict of interest.
Other pieces of evidence Najib wished to adduce included the recent discovery that Mohd Nazlan was previously the general counsel and company secretary for Maybank Group between 2006 and 2015 and had overall responsibility for the management and administration of all legal departments within the entire group.
Najib, in his application, alleged that Mohd Nazlan was involved or had knowledge of Maybank’s deliberations and decision in granting a RM4.17 billion loan to 1MDB and would have had knowledge that SRC International was 1MDB’s subsidiary and a potential witness in the 1MDB case.
“This application is not an application for additional or fresh evidence but camouflaged as such, to allow the applicant to carry out investigation into the matters stated in the Amended Notice of Motion and the alleged conflict of interest on the part of Justice Nazlan,” Sithambaram added.
Supporting his argument, Sithambaram noted that 1MDB and SRC International are two distinct legal entities as the latter was operating separately and independently from 1MDB while reporting directly to the prime minister, who was Najib himself.
Moreover, Sithambaram further argued that it was irrational for Najib to allege that Mohd Nazlan’s past employment with Maybank Group was a fact recently discovered or deliberately suppressed from him since they were known in the public domain.
He said information of Mohd Nazlan’s previous appointment with Maybank Group became the centre of attention in August 2018, before the commencement of the trial, when the news that Mohd Nazlan was to preside over the trial was being widely reported in the media.
Citing news reports, Sithambaram said news agencies brought Mohd Nazlan’s career background including the Maybank employment to the attention of the public before the trial commenced which now meant the additional evidence sought to be admitted does not constitute fresh evidence.
“My Lady, before the commencement of the trial, everyone knew Justice Nazlan was from Maybank. They knew that,” he said, adding that even Najib’s own affidavit in support had disclosed Mohd Nazlan’s role in the financial institution.
Najib’s first counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah previously claimed on June 7 that Mohd Nazlan had failed to disclose his position in Maybank Group, which was responsible for proposing the establishment of SRC International.
In his supporting affidavit, Najib said the evidence he sought to adduce was not made available to him at trial, adding that the evidence was relevant to the issues before the High Court and Court of Appeal and thus would be relevant to his appeals that would be adjudicated in the Federal Court.
Najib in his affidavit said the fact that Mohd Nazlan knew of his personal involvement in the setting up of SRC International but concealed it to the defence amounts to a conflict of interest that has led to a real danger of bias.
The other four judges on the bench were Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Federal Court judges Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan, Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan and Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah.
Leading the prosecution is ad hoc prosecutor Sithambaram who was assisted by deputy public prosecutors Donald Joseph Franklin, Sulaiman Kho Kheng Fuei, Mohd Ashrof Adrin Kamarul and Manjira Vasudevan.
Lawyers Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, Liew Teck Huat and Rueben Mathiavaranam appeared for Najib.
Last December, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s July 2020 verdict and sentence of 12 years in prison and a fine of RM210 million.
The case is now at the Federal Court, and it is Najib’s last chance to convince the judges his conviction and punishment should be overturned.
Hearing in the country’s supreme court is scheduled to take place over nine days from today until August 19 and resume after the weekend from August 23 until August 26.