PUTRAJAYA: Najib Razak’s application to adduce fresh evidence in a bid to set aside his conviction in the RM42 million SRC International corruption appeal will proceed at 12.30pm today despite a plea by a lawyer for the former prime minister to adjourn the proceedings.
A three-member Court of Appeal bench chaired by Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil said the proceedings will go ahead online as provided for under the Courts of Judicature Act.
He said he did not want to hear any excuse and will decide accordingly later if the order is not complied with.
Counsel Harvinder Singh Sidhu had earlier submitted to the bench that today’s proceedings be postponed to another date as one of the lawyers in Najib’s legal team is down with Covid-19.
Najib was absent from court, and one of his bailors, Faizal Shamsuddin, arrived in the midst of the proceedings.
In a letter filed and addressed to the Court of Appeal’s registrar yesterday, defence lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah sought to vacate the hearing for both today and tomorrow after one of the team’s lawyers tested positive for Covid-19 after three different tests.
This was after another of the firm’s lawyers told Harvinder and another member of Najib’s legal team that her mother tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in the day, which led to all the lawyers at the firm screening themselves as well.
Shafee said the MySejahtera status of all those involved has changed to casual or close contact as they await an appropriate time to conduct a PCR test.
At the outset of today’s hearing, Karim asked the lawyer if Najib was present and Harvinder replied in the negative.
The lawyer also made an application to adjourn today’s proceedings as the defence could not complete its written submission yesterday after the Covid-19 scare in the firm.
Karim said it appeared the parties in the SRC case were not prepared to accept the verdict of the court and used Covid-19 as an excuse.
Ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram said he was shocked by the turn of events, adding that the appellant (Najib) was taking every effort to scuttle the proceeding and scheduled verdict tomorrow.
“The law must be complied with. Administration of justice must be done without fear or favour,” he said.
He said this case should not be allowed as a precedent as others will also use Covid-19 as an excuse.
The senior lawyer, who is prosecuting this case, said the proceedings could go online.
At this juncture, Karim asked if Najib’s bailors were present and Harvinder said Faizal just came in.
Karim then asked Faizal the whereabouts of Najib. “Why is he not here? Did you take the trouble to find out? It is your responsibility. The court is not a coffee shop,” he said.
The judge said an arrest warrant could be issued against Najib for being absent and the RM2 million bail amount could be confiscated.
Harvinder then said Najib was under home quarantine.
Karim retorted, saying: “We know the SOP.”
He offered two options – Najib could be arrested and brought to court to follow the proceedings, or attend the online proceedings as provided for under Section 15 of the Court of Judicature Act.
“We don’t need the consent of parties. We are experienced,” he said, and added that the parties need only make oral submissions today.
The bench then decided the proceedings will go online at 12.30pm.
Last year, High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali sentenced Najib to 12 years’ jail and fined him RM210 million after finding him guilty on all seven charges.
Najib was accused of abusing his power as the prime minister by giving government guarantees on SRC International’s RM4 billion loan from the Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP).
He was also slapped with three counts of CBT and three money laundering charges in relation to RM42 million belonging to SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.