PUTRAJAYA: Najib Razak was not put at a disdvantage when the trial judge in his SRC International Sdn Bhd corruption hearing only provided key points when ordering him to enter his defence, the Court of Appeal heard today.
Ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram said a trial judge was not required under law to give reasons after finding the prosecution had established a prima facie case and ordering the accused to enter his defence.
“The appellant was not prejudiced and there was no miscarriage of justice when the trial judge gave key points to order him to enter his defence,” he said in his submission before a three-member bench hearing the former prime minister’s appeal against his conviction and sentence.
Sithambaram, who was given a special licence by the attorney-general to prosecute this case, said the task of the defence was to respond to the “entire prosecution’s case” and not to rebut prima facie findings of the trial judge.
He said calling for the defence of the accused, based on an oral ruling, was not a judgment.
“There is no such thing as two judgments but only one when an accused is either acquitted or convicted of a criminal charge,” he said, adding that the defence position that the accused was denied a fair trial was a desperate argument.
Sithambaram said if the defence argument was accepted, no trial judge would give oral or written reasons to call for the defence of accused persons in future.
In this case, he said, trial judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali gave key points to order Najib to enter his defence on all the charges, although he was not required to.
“It was a bonus for the defence to get some points for the appellant (Najib) to enter his defence and yet they are complaining,” he said, adding that as a lawyer, he would be happy to get some inkling why his client was being asked to enter his defence.
On April 6, Najib’s lead counsel, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, had submitted before the bench that Nazlan’s conduct was highly improper and prejudicial to the accused and was also a serious misdirection.
He had even labelled the judge as “hopelessly incompetent”, resulting in a blunder, and the verdict was “poisoned in judgment” for adding new grounds.
This led Court of Appeal judge Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, who is chairing the three-member appeal panel, to reprimand Shafee to use “polite words” like “erred in law” and “misdirected himself” to show any alleged weaknesses in Nazlan’s judgment.
On July 28 last year, Nazlan sentenced Najib to 12 years’ jail and ordered him to pay a RM210 million fine after finding him guilty on seven counts of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering in relation to RM42 million belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former unit of 1MDB.
The appeal hearing continues.