Three witnesses called to testify on first day of Najib's SRC trial

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KUALA LUMPUR (April 1): As former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak's trial for seven charges of criminal breach of trust (CBT), abuse of power and money laundering in relation to SRC International Sdn Bhd funds involving RM42 million begins on Wednesday, the prosecution is expected to call one to three witnesses to take the stand on that day.

The trial is fixed for one day this week but on Thursday, the Federal Court will hear the three appeals brought by Najib and one by the prosecution in an interlocutory matter.

The witnesses had been subpoenaed since last week following the Federal Court's decision last Wednesday (March 27) to lift the stay order granted by the Court of Appeal pending Najib and the prosecution's appeal on the four matters stated above.

Trial judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali fixed Wednesday for the first day of hearing.

A source close to the prosecution team told theedgemarkets.com that the trial before Nazlan on Wednesday afternoon will begin with the prosecution making an opening statement to the case.

"There will be one to three witnesses to be called on that day after the opening statement is made. The number would depend on how the proceedings go on that day," the source said.

In high profile criminal cases, normally the prosecution will make an opening statement to the case, laying out the brief facts, what to expect and how many witnesses are expected to be called.

The trial in any criminal cases begins with the prosecution bringing in its witnesses to testify, and after the first witness is called, there will be cross-examination made by the defence counsel, led by Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Havinderjit Singh.

Then the prosecution, led by Attorney General Tommy Thomas, will re-examine the witness. The prosecution includes senior lawyers Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah and Datuk V Sithambaram.

However, unlike in other criminal trials, there will be a prepared witness statement given to the court during examination in chief by the prosecution, as this was similarly done in other commercial criminal cases like that of former transport minister Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik's Port Klang Free Zone case.

The same process will go on with the next witness until the prosecution closes its case and make submissions to the state's case against the former premier.

Following the submissions and evidence of the prosecution's witnesses, Nazlan will then decide whether 65-year-old Najib has a prima facie case or in other words "a case to answer" to the seven charges imposed on him.

The judge would then decide if the former premier would be ordered to enter into his defence or otherwise.

One of the main witnesses for the SRC trial is former SRC director Datuk Suboh Md Yassin, who returned to Malaysia last year, after the 14th general election.

Unlike Suboh, the SRC managing director then, Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, is still said to be overseas.

If defence is called, Najib would have to take the stand first instead of the other defence witnesses.

At the defence stage, Najib's lawyers would be the first to ask questions and this is followed by cross-examination by the prosecution and then a re-examination by his counsel.

The judge will then decide following the submissions made by the prosecutors and the lawyers, and the defence witnesses' testimony whether the defence had managed to create a reasonable doubt to the prosecution's case.

Najib was on July 4 last year, charged with three counts of CBT and one count of abusing his post over SRC's fund of RM42 million, and on Aug 8, he was slapped with another three counts of money laundering involving the same amount belonging to the same fund.

Last February, the former premier was levelled with three more charges of money laundering amounting to RM47 million but this is not included in the present trial.

SRC is a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and now placed under the Finance Ministry.

Besides the 10 SRC charges, Najib is also facing another 32 charges where 25 of them are related to money laundering and abuse of power of RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds.

He also faces seven charges including six for CBT and abuse of power in relation to the International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) and the 1MDB audit report.