KUALA LUMPUR: Today is the day for Malaysians to see, for the first in the country’s history, a former prime minister take the stand to answer charges against him in a court of law.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, 66, will testify from the witness box as the first defence witness to rebut seven charges of misappropriating RM42 million in SRC International Sdn Bhd funds before High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.
According to his co-counsel Harvinderjit Singh, Najib would be called as the first witness and the defence had readied one witness on the first day of the defence proceedings.
Najib will be first questioned by his defence during examination-in-chief and later he will be cross-examined by the prosecution.
On Nov 11, Justice Mohd Nazlan ordered Najib to enter his defence on three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT), three charges of money laundering and one count of abuse of position in relation to the SRC funds after finding that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against the accused.
The accused has three options which he must choose from – to give a sworn evidence in the witness box where he will be subjected to cross-examination; to give an unsworn statement from the dock where he cannot be cross-examined; or to remain silent, in which case the court must proceed to convict him.
The Pekan MP chose the first option – to give evidence under oath from the witness stand where he will be cross-examined by the prosecution.
In his judgment, Justice Mohd Nazlan among others ruled that Najib had used his office or position for gratification and had utilised RM42 million of SRC’s funds, in which he had an interest, for his personal interest and own advantage.
The judge also held that the accused had enormous influence and wielded an overarching position of power in SRC and the prosecution has succeeded in establishing there was a CBT by Najib over funds of the company.
In relation to the three money-laundering charges, Justice Mohd Nazlan held that the RM42 million proceeds in Najib’s accounts originated from unlawful activity, as established in the CBT charges.
“A prima facie case has therefore been made out against the accused in respect of each of the single charge of use of position for gratification, the three CBT charges and three money laundering charges. As such, I now call upon the accused to enter his defence in respect of all the seven charges,” the judge said.
Najib, who served as the sixth prime minister from 2009 to 2018, is the first head of government of Malaysia to find himself in the dock of a court.
He is accused of committing the offences between Aug 17, 2011 and March 2, 2015.
The court fixed Dec 3 and 4, Dec 9 until 12, and Dec 16 to 19 for Najib to enter his defence.
The prosecution team is led by Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas. The team also comprises ad-hoc Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk V.Sithambaram while Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah leads a group of defence counsel.
On Oct 22 and 23, the court heard lengthy submissions from the prosecution and defence teams. The prosecution had on Aug 27, closed its case after 58 days of trial with 57 witnesses called to testify.
During the trial, the prosecution tendered more than 750 exhibits, including bank documents relating to Najib’s bank accounts, cash transactions, minutes of meetings and Blackberry Messenger chats over Najib’s transactions.
Najib was first brought to the Sessions Court here on July 4, 2018 where he was charged with three counts of CBT and one count of abuse of position.
On Aug 8, 2018, he was brought to the Sessions Court again and charged with three counts of money laundering, involving the same money. The cases were later transferred to the High Court with the charges consolidated in one trial.
With regard to the CBT charges, Najib, as a public servant and agent, namely Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Malaysia, and Advisor Emeritus of SRC International Sdn Bhd (SRC), allegedly misappropriated RM27 million and RM5 million respectively of RM4 billion belonging to SRC.
He was charged with committing the two offences at AmIslamic Bank Berhad, Ambank Group Building, No 55, Jalan Raja Chulan here, between Dec 24, 2014, and Dec 29, 2014.
On the third count, Najib allegedly misappropriated RM10 million of RM4 billion belonging to SRC at the same place between Feb 10, 2015, and March 2, 2015.
The three charges are framed under Section 409 of the Penal Code which provides an imprisonment for up to 20 years, with whipping and liable to fine upon conviction.
On the charge of abusing his position, Najib as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Malaysia, allegedly used his position to commit bribery involving RM42 million through his participation or involvement in the decision to provide government guarantees for loans from the Retirement Fund Incorporated to SRC International amounting to RM4 billion.
He was charged with committing the offence at the Prime Minister’s Office, Precinct 1, Putrajaya, Federal Territory of Putrajaya, between Aug 17, 2011 and Feb 8, 2012.
The charge, under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 and punishable under Section 24 of the same Act, provides an imprisonment for up to 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the amount or value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.
On the three money-laundering charges, Najib is alleged to have received RM27 million, RM5 million and RM10 million, respectively, of proceeds from unlawful activities, via Real-Time Electronic Transfer of Funds and Securities (Rentas) into his two AmIslamic Bank Berhad accounts, bearing the numbers 2112022011880 and 2112022011906.
The offences were allegedly committed at AmIslamic Bank Berhad, AmBank Group Building, No. 55, Jalan Raja Chulan here, between Dec 26, 2014, and Feb 10, 2015,.
The charges were framed under Section 4(1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLATFPUAA) 2001.
If convicted, the ex-premier faces up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the illicit proceeds or RM5 million, whichever is higher, on each count. — Bernama