Najib fails to get postponement for his SRC appeal hearing

(NST) – Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s appeal hearing involving his SRC International Sdn Bhd case got off to a dramatic start today with his lead counsel first failing to turn up on time, and then persistently arguing for the hearing to be adjourned at least another month.

The appeal hearing had been set to start at 9am but as the court was called into session on the dot, another of Najib’s lawyer, Harvinderjit Singh stood up and informed the panel of three judges that lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had yet to make it there.

He said Shafee had to turn back while on the way to the court after realising that he needed to get some documents.

“He will be here by 9.40am the latest,” he said, before the court stood down to wait for Shafee.

Shafee later apologised for making everyone wait after court reconvened at 9.40am.

However, immediately after that, the senior lawyer wasted no time in making an application for the appeal hearing to be put off by at least another one month.

Shafee said the defence needed more time as it was in the midst of gathering evidence of former Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz’s family’s role in the issues surrounding Najib’s case.

He said there had been reports of millions – from the issuance of bonds related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), banked into Zeti’s husband, and son’s bank accounts in Singapore.

He argued that such evidence was crucial to Najib’s defence. However, he said the defence’s attempts to obtain documents related to this had been hampered by lack of co-operation, even suggesting sabotage, from various parties.

Shafee said he had written to Singaporean authorities, and also filed an application in New York to obtain information and documents.

However, he said nothing had been forthcoming until now and he needed at least another month before getting on with the appeal hearing.

However, lead prosecutor Datuk V Sithambaram objected to the application and said Shafee was going all over the place, from Singapore to New York, “east, west, south and north”, talking about things which had no relevance to the evidence which had been produced during the trial at the High Court.

“He is just making statements from the bar. We seriously object to his request for an adjournment.

“He is making an unsubstantiated speech from the bar for political motivation…he is seeking an adjournment on invalid grounds.”

However, Shafee countered that he was not making unsubstantiated claims and said issues he had brought up were all over the internet.

He argued that even netizens had posted that Najib should be given access to the documents to help him prepare his appeal.

“You must have read about it over the internet,” Shafee said, trying to drive home his point.

However, Judge Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, who is heading the three member bench along with Judges Datuk Has Zanah Mehat and Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera, said he did not read all that.

Abdul Karim later eventually shot down Shafee’s request for the adjournment and ordered the appeal hearing to proceed.

He said all three judges were unanimous that there was no sufficient reason to adjourn the appeal hearing.

Najib is appealing against his sentence and conviction of seven charges of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering in relation to RM42 million belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd.

High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali had on July 28 last year sentenced Najib to 12 years’ jail and ordered him to pay RM210 million fine after finding him guilty of all seven charges.

A total of 76 prosecution and defence witnesses gave evidence in the trial that lasted 57 days from April 3, 2019.