Najib loses appeal: court says his suit is meant to undermine his criminal conviction

(Malaysia Now) – Former prime minister Najib Razak today lost his appeal at the Court of Appeal to reinstate a civil lawsuit against AmBank Islamic Bhd and two others over the mismanagement of his bank accounts.

A three-member bench comprising justices Yaacob Md Sam, Hadhariah Syed Ismail and Ahmad Zaidi Ibrahim unanimously dismissed Najib’s appeal and ordered him to pay costs of RM40,000 to AmBank Islamic and AMMB Holdings Bhd, and RM35,000 to former customer relationship manager Joanna Yu Ging Ping, the respondents in the appeal.

Yaacob, who delivered the court’s decision, said the criminal charges faced by Najib in the SRC International case could not be caused by AmBank Islamic, AMMB Holdings Bhd and Yu.

“It is a matter of the sole or unfettered discretionary power of the attorney-general, being the public prosecutor, to institute any criminal charges proceedings under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, the Penal Code and the Anti-Money Laundering Act,” he said.

He also said that the issues in Najib’s civil suit and in his SRC International criminal case were similar, if not identical.

Yaacob said the court was of the view that Najib was seeking to proceed with his civil suit to undermine the criminal proceedings and findings by the High Court and Court of Appeal in the SRC International case.

Yu was one of the prosecution witnesses in the trial where Najib was charged with seven counts of misappropriating RM42 million in SRC International funds.

On July 28, 2020, High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali convicted and sentenced Najib to 12 years’ imprisonment and fined him RM210 million over the SRC International case.

The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court decision on Dec 8 last year, while Najib has filed an appeal against his conviction and sentence at the Federal Court.

Najib was also appealing against the decision of the High Court in July 2020 which struck out his suit against the bank and Yu, which he claimed, among others, had committed negligence when handling his bank accounts by disclosing them to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.

In the court’s decision which was delivered online, Yaacob said the civil suit filed by Najib against the banks and Yu was not for the purpose of seeking damages, but rather a “collateral attack” on what had already transpired before the court in his SRC International case.

Collateral attack means legal action to challenge a ruling in another case.

Yaacob said he agreed with the submissions of the respondents’ lawyer that the administration of justice would become chaotic if a declaration of innocence or relief from any criminal wrongdoing could be obtained from the civil court, which would also intrude into the domain of the criminal court.

He said it could not be right to have the same issues adjudicated by both the civil court and the criminal court.

“It is to be noted that the appellant (Najib) has been found guilty of those criminal charges by the High Court and on appeal by the appellant, the findings and decision of High Court were upheld by the Court of Appeal,” he said, adding that the court took judicial notice that Najib’s appeal to the Court of Appeal against his conviction and sentence was unanimously dismissed on Dec 8 last year.

Yaacob said in the Court of Appeal’s judgment in the SRC International case, the court agreed with the findings of the High Court on the issue of Najib’s knowledge relating to the operation of his bank accounts.

Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah indicated to the court that he would bring the matter to the Federal Court.

Lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar represented Yu, while Yoong Sin Min and Benjamin John Dawson acted for the banks.