KUALA LUMPUR: Ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram told the Federal Court this afternoon that trial judge Nazlan Ghazali’s previous employment as Maybank’s general counsel did not preclude him from hearing Najib Razak’s SRC International trial.
“Maybank did some work for SRC and was paid RM800,000 in fees,” Sithambaram said.
Sithambaram submitted that Nazlan’s previous employment did not mean there was a conflict of interests that prevented him from presiding over the trial.
The senior lawyer, who is acting for the prosecution on a special licence, said Nazlan’s involvement in Maybank Group was already in the public domain before he was elevated to the bench in 2015.
Sithambaram said it was true the bank provided consultancy services to SRC but not to the extent of Nazlan personally giving advice on the setting up of SRC.
The prosecutor also referred to an earlier affidavit filed by Najib which alleged that Nazlan was involved in bribery, only to withdraw that allegation later.
“This amounts to discrediting Nazlan as a judge,” he added.
Sithambaram also said Nazlan’s alleged conflict could have been raised by the defence during trial when they cross-examined prosecution witnesses.
He argued that it was not reasonable for the defence to challenge Nazlan’s finding that Najib had “overarching” control over SRC merely because of his previous position in the bank.
Sithambaram also told the apex court that the statements by the MACC and bank officers could not be divulged as they were privileged documents.
“It is not subject to disclosure (both) before and after trial,” he added.
In his application, Najib is contending that Nazlan ought to have recused himself from presiding over the trial due to a conflict of interests arising from events which took place when he was general counsel and company secretary of the Maybank group.
The former prime minister is claiming that the judge failed to disclose his involvement in the lead up to SRC’s formation, and the grant of a loan and credit facilities for the benefit of SRC and 1MDB. He says the non-disclosure deprived him the right to challenge the judge’s jurisdiction to hear the case.
The prosecution, however, says that contention cannot be raised now as information regarding the judge’s employment with the bank had been in the public domain since 2018, even before the commencement of the SRC trial in April 2019.
Najib motion, which was filed two months ago and amended with leave of the apex court earlier today, is seeking the introduction of fresh evidence in the form of additional documents which came into his possession on June 16 and July 7 this year, after the trial and appeal to the Court of Appeal had been disposed.
He is also asking the court to allow additional oral testimony to be taken from former 1MDB chief executive officer Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, SRC case investigating officer Rosli Hussein and three Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers who recorded statements from Nazlan recently.
On July 28, 2020, Najib was convicted on seven charges of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust over SRC International funds amounting to RM42 million. He was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment and fined RM210 million.
On Dec 8 last year, the Court of Appeal upheld both the conviction and sentence. However, Najib was released on bail pending his final appeal before the Federal Court. FMT
MKINI / FREE MALAYSIA TODAY