Najib opts to give sworn evidence in SRC International defence

(FMT) – Former prime minister Najib Razak has opted to give evidence under oath when he enters his defence on Dec 3 for seven charges in relation to the transfer of RM42 million to his account from SRC International.

He told an interpreter this shortly after trial judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali ruled that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against him.

Nazlan said Najib had three options: to give sworn evidence, to provide an unsworn statement from the dock, or to remain silent.

Unlike an unsworn statement, a sworn statement would enable the prosecution to cross-examine him with his lawyer then conducting a re-examination.

Lawyer K Ramu said other defence witnesses could also give evidence under oath, but that less weight would be attached to the statement of the accused.

He said the accused could also remain silent but would be convicted based on existing case laws.

Najib, 66, is accused of abusing his power as prime minister by giving government guarantees on SRC International’s RM4 billion loan from Retirement Fund Inc.

He also faces three charges of money laundering and three of criminal breach of trust in the transfer of RM42 million to his account from the former 1MDB unit.

The Pekan MP was charged with committing the offences at AmIslamic Bank Bhd on Jalan Raja Chulan and the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya between Aug 17, 2011, and Feb 10, 2015.

Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told Nazlan he would file applications to obtain the names of witnesses where the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and police had recorded statements in connection with the SRC International case.

“We will also make an application to get the witness statements of others who are not among the witnesses the prosecution has offered to the defence,” he said.

Ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram said the prosecution would likely object to these applications, following which Nazlan ordered Shafee to file the applications in court by Thursday.

He added that he would hear parties on Friday afternoon.

The judge also allowed Najib’s application to be absent from proceedings on Friday to campaign for Barisan Nasional in the Tanjung Piai by-election on Nov 16.

The prosecution offered 66 witnesses to the defence after closing its case on Aug 27.

They include former Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz and former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nor Mohamed Yakcop.

MACC has taken statements from 193 potential witnesses, 57 of whom have been called by the prosecution including investigating officer Rosli Hussain.

Shafee told reporters later that Najib was shocked at today’s decision as he had been expecting an acquittal for all seven charges.

“We had overwhelming evidence, both factually and legally, but the judge took a different interpretation,” he said.

He added that everyone would now have the opportunity to hear from Najib what happened in the SRC International case.

“Our defence has become easier because we have the opportunity to create doubt on the prosecution’s case,” he said.

He said the defence would likely close its case by the first quarter of next year, with a decision delivered soon after.

“But I reckon this case will go beyond the next general election as it could end up in the Federal Court for a final decision,” he added.