Finally, Najib’s chance to tell all in SRC International corruption trial

Kenneth Tee
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is greeted by supporters at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex December 3, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — Malaysians will finally get to hear Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s side of the story in the 2015 misappropriation of RM42 million from SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Najib, the country’s first-ever former prime minister to be accused of abusing his position to steal and misuse public money while in office, is expected to be called to testify as the defence’s first witness today.

Background of the defence trial

The Pekan MP whose corruption trial started on April 3 was ordered to enter his defence on November 11 after High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali ruled the prosecution has proven prima facie, meaning there is sufficient grounds for a case against him after calling 57 witnesses in a hearing that lasted 57 days.

It is doubly significant in that for the first time in Malaysian history, a former prime minister will address the seven criminal charges against him as a witness.

The 66-year-old chose to testify under oath from the stand, which means he will be questioned not only by his own lawyers but will be subject to cross-examination by prosecutors, who will be looking very closely for any flaw in his testimony.

Datuk V. Sithambaram addresses the media at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex August 27, 2019. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

Since Najib has chosen to give sworn testimony, he is expected to be called first to the witness stand, in accordance with Section 181 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

Section 181 of the CPC states that if any accused person elects to be called as a witness, his evidence shall be taken before that of other witnesses for the defence.

Despite the eagerness to explain himself, Najib would have to inform the court of his intentions before the beginning of proceedings if he wished to change the manner of his defence.

It is uncertain as to the number of witnesses the defence planned to call, with prosecutors also offering a total of 66 witnesses to the defence team.

The prosecution is led by Datuk V. Sithambaram while Najib is represented by Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.

Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex July 2, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Najib’s seven SRC International charges

Out of the seven charges, Najib is accused of committing three counts of criminal breach of trust over a total RM42 million of SRC International funds while entrusted with its control as the prime minister and finance minister then, and a separate charge of abusing the same positions for self-gratification of the same sum.

For the remaining three charges, he is accused of laundering RM42 million.

At the defence stage of the trial, the prosecution must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the court to find the accused guilty, and subsequently convict the accused as charged.

If the prosecution fails to do so, Najib who is the accused, will be acquitted and discharged.

Najib’s defence trial will run from December 3 to 4, December 9 to 12 and December 16 to 19.

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