KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 8): Senior counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the Court of Appeal’s usage of the words "national embarrassment" in its decision against former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the RM42 million SRC International Sdn Bhd trial was unnecessary, which would have an effect akin to defamation.
During a press conference following the conclusion of the appeal earlier on Wednesday (Dec 8), the lawyer said he was disappointed that the three-man panel of judges, chaired by Justice Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, had chosen those words as it could have a serious effect on his client’s reputation.
“This is still a matter that is going on appeal. In light of that, I find it disappointing that that kind of remark was made by the court — that this is not for national interest, but rather a national embarrassment,” he said.
“They could have said that the defence of national interest did not subsist and we reject [the appeal]. That would have been the end of the matter. To go further and say that this is a national embarrassment was unnecessary and that can cause some serious element of perception of Datuk Seri Najib, considering that the entire conviction and sentence have been stayed,” added the lawyer.
Shafee further said that the remark can be expunged during the course of the appeal in the Federal Court.
Najib also expressed disappointment in the judgement delivered by the Court of Appeal, and said that he had asked his lawyers to file an immediate appeal with the Federal Court.
He reiterated that he did not know, ask or direct anyone to transfer the RM42 million of funds into his accounts.
“If you talk about national embarrassment, there are other scandalous issues like, for example, the scandal surrounding the foreign exchange, the forex issue which led to a loss of about RM31 billion.
“If you put it in that context, isn’t that a much more colossal national embarrassment?” said the former prime minister.
Asked if he could contest in the next general election in view of the Court of Appeal’s decision, he said he will “cross the bridge when we come to it”, adding that there is still uncertainty over when the election will take place.
“There are political and personal considerations to make. I will leave it for when the time comes,” he said.
In delivering their judgement, the appellate judges said Najib’s defence team contended that the project was for national interest, but the court did not buy the argument.
The defence had called as defence witnesses former Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, former Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad and former Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah.
"The general law is that the opinion of any person, even if that person is a former AG, is not relevant in any court proceedings. The court forms its decision on cogent admissible evidence, not on the opinion of others, except such an opinion is an exception of that of an expert," Justice Abdul Karim said.
To this end, he said the High Court judge was entirely correct to state that the opinions of Dzulkifli and Irwan could not replace the evidence before it to arrive at a fair and just decision.
Justice Abdul Karim also said that Najib was actively involved in ensuring that the Retirement Fund (Incorporated) (KWAP) loans were disbursed to SRC.
“However, after the funds were disbursed, the appellant became indifferent to the whereabouts of the funds, and did not inquire from SRC as to what happened to the funds, [and] not how they were utilised,” the judge said.
The Edge is covering the trial live here.
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