Thursday 18 Apr 2024
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PUTRAJAYA (March 31): Datuk V Sithambaram, the lead prosecutor in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case, hopes that the decision by the Federal Court to affirm Datuk Seri Najib Razak's conviction and sentence, which he had applied to review, will bring closure to the trial, which began in the High Court in April 2019. 

In the apex court here on Friday (March 31), a five-judge bench led by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli delivered its verdict, and denied Najib’s review application in a 4-1 majority decision. 

Najib’s review application sought to challenge the ruling of the bench led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, which upheld the High Court and Court of Appeal decisions on the former prime minister’s guilt on Aug 23 last year. 

While Sithambaram hopes that Friday’s decision would bring a close to the trial, he could not rule out that Najib could legally apply for another review.

“Legally, a review is from a decision of the Federal Court…legally, there is a possibility,” he said at a press conference after the decision was delivered.

Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah also remained positive about his client's chances, and said that this does not spell the end of his legal battle.

Shafee said that Najib still had the petition he filed with the United Nations (UN) working group asking for his release or a retrial of the case, as well as the application for a pardon from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. 

The lawyer added that Najib’s petition with the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had just begun. 

“We have just heard from the UN that our application with them has just begun. We will send them the dissenting and majority judgements for them to evaluate,” he said. 

In the majority 4-1 decision, it was Abdul Rahman who dissented, while the other four judges, Datuk Vernon Ong Lam Kiat, Datuk Rhodzhariah Bujang, Datuk Nordin Hassan and Court of Appeal judge Datuk Abu Bakar Jais, all denied the review. 

Nonetheless, Shafee expressed his disappointment in the decision, saying there was nothing new in the latest decision, compared to that of the previous Federal Court bench.

“I must say that we were extremely disappointed in the reasoning provided in the majority decision. It sounded like the previous Federal Court judgement — nothing much that amazed us. This was all cited in the previous judgements,” he said. 

Shafee said that Abdul Rahman’s judgement, which cited Rule 137 of the Rules of the Federal Court allowing the court to prevent injustice and an abuse of the trial process, was correct. 

He added that Abdul Rahman’s judgement suggests that injustice had taken place in Najib’s appeal. 

He also did not rule out the possibility of seeking another review with the apex court, but kept mum when asked about it, only replying with a cursory: “We will see.” 

Meanwhile, Sithambaram said that the successful prosecution of Najib should serve as a warning to other offenders. 

“I want to stress that this successful prosecution must send a chilling message to all offenders that the law will catch up with you and punish the guilty,” he said. 

“This prosecution has shown that no man in this land is above the law," he added.

Sithambaram: No joy in successful prosecution

Sithambaram said he takes no joy is winning the case, other than the fact that the rule of law is upheld. 

“I must tell you there is no joy in a successful prosecution, except that the Attorney General’s Chambers has proven that the rule of law is upheld,” he said. 

Najb was found guilty by the High Court on July 28, 2020 on three counts of criminal breach of trust and three counts of money laundering of RM42 million of SRC funds between Dec 26, 2014 and Feb 10, 2015.

He was also found guilty of abusing his power with regard to the RM4 billion Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) loans, which the Cabinet approved via government guarantees in two meetings that he chaired in August 2011 and March 2012.

A three-member Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and sentence on Dec 8, 2021, and this was further confirmed by the five-member bench led by Tengku Maimun last year.

Edited ByLam Jian Wyn
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