Key court cases that saw judgment made this year in spite of Covid

Kenneth Tee
·6-min read
Datuk Nurulhidayah Ahmad Zahid is pictured at the Magistrate’s Court in Putrajaya May 5, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Datuk Nurulhidayah Ahmad Zahid is pictured at the Magistrate’s Court in Putrajaya May 5, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 ― As with every other field, the pandemic interrupted the courts this year. Even as physical distancing reduced courtroom news coverage from March onwards when the various phases of the movement control order (MCO) kicked in nationwide, judges continued to carry out their duty.

Here are 11 civil and criminal cases that caught the public eye where judgments were delivered in 2020; in chronological order:

1. Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s daughter fined for breaking MCO SOP

Considered one of the high-profile cases prosecuted in relation to non-compliance of the MCO, Datuk Nurulhidayah Ahmad Zahid and her husband, Datuk Saiful Nizam Mohd Yusoff were both fined by the Magistrates Court at the height of the MCO imposed nationwide in May.

Outcome: RM800 fine for both Nurulhidayah and Saiful Nizam after they pleaded guilty to the charge.

2. Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s stepson Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz walks away from 1MDB money laundering charges, but not wholly free

The first son of Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor was discharged from five counts of laundering over US$248 million (RM1 billion) allegedly misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in May.

The Sessions Court granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) based on the prosecution’s application, after Riza agreed to pay an undisclosed sum believed to amount to several million ringgit to the Malaysian government.

Outcome: Riza’s two bailors regained their RM1 million bail money. But the DNAA also means Riza can be tried again on the same or similar charges in future should the prosecution wish to take up the case.

3. Tan Sri Musa Aman freed of nearly four dozen charges of corruption and money laundering

The former Sabah chief minister was freed in June of all 46 corruption and money laundering charges related to logging contracts awarded when he was in office after the prosecution dropped its case.

According to Tan Sri Idrus Harun who took over as Attorney-General in March after Tan Sri Tommy Thomas resigned, the prosecution withdrew all charges against Musa due to the unavailability of documentary evidence and key witnesses.

Outcome: Musa can’t be prosecuted on the same charges again.

4. Mat Sabu’s son’s illegal drug use

The drug abuse of Ahmad Saiful Islam Mohamad, the son of former defence minister and Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu, came to light after he was convicted of drug abuse by the Sessions Court in June.

Outcome: The 32-year-old was sentenced to eight months imprisonment.

5. The murder of former deputy prosecutor Datuk Kevin Morais

Six men ― R. Dinishwaran, AK Thinesh Kumar, M. Vishwanath, S. Nimalan, Ravi Chandaran and former army doctor Colonel R.Kunaseegaran ― were found guilty of murdering Morais in 2015.

The former deputy public prosecutor was found stuffed in a concrete-filled oil drum within the vicinity of USJ 1 in Subang Jaya, Selangor. The murder trial lasted almost four years, but in the end, the High Court ruled in July that the defence had failed to raise reasonable doubt against the murder charge.

Outcome: All six were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.

6. Najib’s RM42 million SRC International Sdn Bhd case

Possibly the most significant verdicts made this year. Najib earned the notoriety of becoming the first former Malaysian prime minister to be convicted of a crime.

In July, the High Court ruled that Najib was guilty of all seven charges of abuse of power, money-laundering and criminal breach of trust by depositing RM42 million from SRC International Sdn Bhd ― a former subsidiary of 1MDB ― into his private bank account between 2011 and 2015, when he was prime minister.

The trial lasted almost a year and a half.

Outcome: Najib was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment and fined RM210 million.

7. The death of 23 people in the Kampung Datuk Keramat, KL tahfiz centre fire

Three years after the awful pre-dawn fire that broke out at the Pusat Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah on Jalan Keramat Hujung, Kampung Datuk Keramat in Wangsa Maju on September 14, 2017, the High Court delivered its verdict.

A juvenile who was one of two people originally charged with murdering 23 residents of the tahfiz centre, was found guilty in August. The High Court found the accused had with intention committed murder and subsequently failed to raise reasonable doubt in the case throughout the trial.

Outcome: The juvenile who was 16 years old at the time of the crime and cannot be named due to legal safeguards, was sentenced to imprisonment at the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Former PAS deputy president Datuk Nasharudin Mat Isa (centre) arrives at the Sessions Court in Shah Alam October 22, 2019. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Former PAS deputy president Datuk Nasharudin Mat Isa (centre) arrives at the Sessions Court in Shah Alam October 22, 2019. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

8. Datuk Nasharudin Mat Isa’s RM4m embezzlement case

The former PAS deputy president had been charged with three counts of money laundering and 30 counts of criminal breach of trust amounting to nearly RM4 million at the Sessions Court.

Following a letter of representation submitted to the Attorney-General’s Chambers that was later accepted partially, the Sessions Court granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) over 16 counts of CBT after the prosecution withdrew the charges.

Outcome: Partial DNAA granted, 14 counts of CBT and three counts of money laundering remain.

9. Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu’s convicted killer loses retrial attempt

Former police commando Azilah Hadri, one of two people convicted of killing the Mongolian translator in 2006, has been pushing for a review of his case all the way to the Federal Court.

Azilah had in a statutory declaration claimed that he had killed Altantuya and disposed of her body with the use of explosive based on Najib’s orders back in 2006 when the latter was deputy prime minister.

However, the Federal Court rejected his application this month. In making its decision, the country’s highest court said Azilah’s own suppression of alleged instructions to carry out the murder did not lead to an exceptional situation warranting a review.

Outcome: Azilah remains on death row.

Ezra Zaid is pictured at the Petaling Shariah Subordinate Court in Shah Alam December 17, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Ezra Zaid is pictured at the Petaling Shariah Subordinate Court in Shah Alam December 17, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

10. Ezra Zaid cleared of publishing book contrary to Sunni Islamic teachings

The publisher was charged with the Shariah offence of publishing a book alleged to contain deviant teachings contrary to Sunni Islamic teachings almost eight years ago.

The controversial book was Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta, the Bahasa Malaysia edition of Allah, Liberty and Love, written and released in 2011 by Canadian Muslim Irshad Manji, and later banned in Malaysia.

After a lengthy court battle, the Petaling Shariah Subordinate Court rejected the Sharie prosecutors’ application for a DNAA and fully acquitted Ezra.

Outcome: Ezra walks free, but the books published by his company ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and seized by the authorities were ordered to be forfeited and destroyed.

11. Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor’s corruption trial

A day after turning 70, the Putrajaya MP was found guilty of accepting a RM2 million bribe from a businessman back in June 2016 when he was the Federal Territories minister.

Tengku Adnan who is Umno treasurer, is the second high-profile politician after Najib to be convicted of corruption this year.

The High Court said in its judgment that Tengku Adnan had failed to raise reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case after conducting a maximum evaluation of all the evidence tendered in court.

Outcome: He was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment and fined RM2 million.

Former Federal Territories minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor is pictured leaving the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex December 21, 2020. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Former Federal Territories minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor is pictured leaving the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex December 21, 2020. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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