AG: Absurd for Najib to claim breach of natural justice

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PUTRAJAYA (March 18): Attorney General Tommy Thomas denied that there was a breach of natural justice on former premier Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, as claimed by his lead counsel in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case.

Thomas in showing the notes of proceedings at the High Court and the judgment by Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, also said the judge was not writing a second judgment on his decision but merely expanding on the brief oral decisions he had already given resulting in the present appeals before the Court of Appeal.

The former premier is facing seven counts of criminal breach of trust and abuse of power in relation to RM42 million from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

He is appealing four interlocutory matters involving Nazlan's decision — not to provide a gag order on the media, allowing senior lawyer and former Malaysian Bar president Sulaiman Abdullah to lead the prosecution, not allowing the defence to have more documents and the question of the transfer of the case from the Sessions Court to High Court following the withdrawal of the Section 418 Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) certificate.

While Najib's lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told the court that the lawyers were not given a chance to submit on the question of the withdrawal of the certificate, and the judge wanting to continue listening to the case despite the withdrawal of the Section 418 certificate, Thomas said Shafee and co-counsel Havinderjit Singh were given ample time by the High Court to have their say.

The AG showed pages five to 13 of the appeal records and pages 15 to 18 of the same court document which showed that the two had been allowed to submit on the issue of the withdrawal of the Section 418 certificate.

"It is absurd under such circumstances for Najib to say there has been a breach of natural justice. Even if there was, which is strenuously denied, Najib's lawyers can submit fully before this Court of Appeal as this appeal is by way of a re-hearing.

"Hence there is no breach of natural justice real or imagined in this appeal," he said.

Thomas said both parties including the defence have agreed that this trial should be heard before the High Court, and hence there should not be such strenuous objections by the defence.

"The judge had jurisdiction to effect the transfer of the case to himself under Section 417 of the CPC especially when he had previously heard all preliminary issues, case managed it and fixed the trial dates.

"It is ludicrous to suggest that Najib should be physically present in the Sessions Court before the High Court could act under Section 417(2) to effect the transfer. The judge has the power to effect the transfer of the case within the confinements of the CPC.

"Since the judge had power to do what he did, the proceedings are not vitiated by suspected illegality. The transfer can be regularised as there is no breach of any laws," the AG said.

He added that these challenges put up by Shafee and Havinderjit is to merely delay the trial at every stage.

"Najib's lawyers' invitation to set aside Nazlan's judgment and remit the case before another High Court judge is solely to delay the trial," he said.

Shafee and Havinderjit also made the reply to the AG's submissions resulting in Court of Appeal judge Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof, who led the panel, to say the bench will deliver their decisions on the four appeals on Thursday.

The other judges who sat with Zabariah were Justices Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang and Datuk Lau Bee Lan.