PUTRAJAYA (April 6): The leading member of the three-member panel of the Court of Appeal bench today cautioned defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah over his choice of words in describing High Court Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, the judge in Datuk Seri Najib Razak's SRC International Sdn Bhd trial.
This follows Shafee's use of words that Justice Nazlan “had poisoned his grounds of judgement” in describing his allegation that the court had incorporated something that was not there in the judge's findings, when calling a prima facie case, in the final judgement.
Shafee further called Justice Nazlan as a learned trial judge of bias and questioned his conduct in the way he authenticated the trial notes.
“If the judge meddles with the records, how can we trust his findings? It shows the judge could be biased. It is only trite law that someone who is supposedly well versed in the field [who] is hopelessly incompetent can [he] be considered as biased. There is no explanation of the blunder of this sort that had happened
“By incorporating something that was not there, the element that had not been there — the judge 'poisoned his grounds of judgment',” Shafee said.
At this point, Justice Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil cautioned the senior counsel over his use of the words “poisoned judgement”.
“Please use polite words and not say 'poisoned judgement' to describe where the judge had gone wrong. You can say that he erred in law or misdirected himself, but not the phrase 'poisoned judgement',” said the judge.
To this, the senior lawyer agreed, but said what he can best say was that Justice Nazlan was hopelessly incompetent in dealing with the matter and, as a result, the former premier may not have been given a fair trial.
Since the start of Najib's appeal, Shafee has touched on Justice Nazlan's inexperience in handling the criminal trial since his transfer from the Commercial High Court to the High Court criminal division “to handle the trial of the century”.
Shafee further lamented that in past high-profile cases, experienced judges were pulled in from the Federal Court to hear cases in the High Court like what was done in former Selangor menteri besar Datuk Seri Harun Idris' case and former youth and sports minister Datuk Mokhtar Hashim's trial.
Najib has been found guilty of abuse of power with regard to approving the RM4 billion loans from Retirement Fund (Incorporated) (KWAP) in 2011 and 2012 for SRC, and a criminal breach of trust (CBT) of RM42 million of the company's funds deposited into his AmBank accounts.
He was also found guilty of money laundering of the RM42 million.
For these reasons, Justice Nazlan, a judge who graduated from Oxford University, sentenced the former premier to 12 years in jail and fined him RM210 million, resulting in the ongoing appeal.