'Frankly, we were expecting an acquittal,' says Najib's 'shocked' lawyer

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KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 11): Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah were taken aback by a high court decision ordering the former prime minister to enter his defence on all seven charges levelled against him over the misappropriation of RM42 million belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd.

The lead defence counsel claimed that his team had submitted an overwhelming case for a full acquittal but added he was glad at the same time that Najib would now be able to give "his version of the story".

Najib, upon hearing the judgement, was shocked by the decision as well, the lawyer said, as the former premier had also expected to be acquitted on all seven charges.

"Frankly, we were expecting an acquittal at this stage because in our submission that we have produced, it's not just a good case, it was overwhelming both factually as well as legally speaking," he told reporters outside the court after High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali handed down his decision.

Shafee said that despite holding the greatest respect for the judge's views, he claimed that Justice Nazlan has taken a different interpretation to both the facts as well as the law.

"For instance, we have always said that to be a director in the context of [Section] 409 [of the] Penal Code, you must be the real director. There is no such thing as a shadow director, because shadow director is a concept in civil law, never in criminal law.

"Our opinion is that the word director cannot be interpreted liberally to include a shadow director. A shadow director is not a director that is registered as the director," Shafee explained.

Section 409 of the Malaysian Penal Code refers to criminal breach of trust by a public servant or agent.

Shafee also pointed to the issue of forged signatures raised during the trial, which he claimed was not contested by the prosecution.

Previously, the defence had suggested that the signatures of SRC director Datuk Suboh Md Yassin that were used in instruction letters directed to the bank for the transfer of funds from the former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) could have been forged.

Although Shafee admitted that he was saddened by the decision, he claimed he was also happy for two reasons.

"One, you will hear the real story from the accused, from Datuk Seri Najib, because he has to tell his version of the story — what happened in SRC as far as he knows, and what are the things that he can dispute in relation to whether or not he actually controlled SRC.

"Two, I'm very happy to say that when I heard the grounds of judgement, I was more worried that the reasoning would be a greater obstacle to me. But with the reasoning that the learned judge has provided — maybe he has taken a purposeful choice — I think our defence at the end of the case becomes easier because things that are obviously unprovable and cannot be proved was taken into consideration as the conclusion," he said.

The seven charges against Najib relate to three counts each on criminal breach of trust and money laundering, and one on abuse of power.

The Edge is reporting the proceedings of the SRC trial live.

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