PETALING JAYA: A retired judge and a lawyer today warned that prosecutors must have overwhelming evidence before framing any charges against former prime minister Najib Razak as anything less will reflect badly on the government.
They said prosecutors should wait for investigators to collect evidence, if need be from overseas, as there was no time bar on criminal cases.
This was because any prosecution against Najib would be high profile and attract wide attention, including in the international arena, they added.
Retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram said although it was in the public domain that a charge sheet had been prepared regarding a RM42 million payment received by Najib from former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International, the previous attorney-general (AG) had publicly cleared Najib of any wrongdoing.
“As such, we must give the new AG a chance to review the evidence on file as fresh statements are being recorded from Najib,” he said.
Sri Ram said there was no point rushing to court and being unable to prove the ingredients of an offence.
“The new AG has his job cut out for him. He has a team of deputy public prosecutors to work on the case, and they must all be given an opportunity to marshall the facts and evidence.
“If any help is needed, the Bar must give every support that we can to bring the criminals to justice,” he added.
Sri Ram was responding to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement that the government could not rush into charging Najib.
Mahathir, who had led Pakatan Harapan to an unexpected victory in last month’s historic election, said many were now waiting for Najib to be arrested but that this was not a simple thing.
“It is not easy as we need to collect evidence that will stand up in court,” he said.
“If we fail to do that, he might win. What will happen if he wins the trial and is found not guilty? All the bad things we said about him will be questioned by the people who voted us in.”
Najib has been questioned twice by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigators over the RM42 million linked to SRC International.
His wife, Rosmah Mansor, has also been questioned on the same matter.
Lawyer SN Nair told FMT that at least “90% proof” was needed before prosecution could be sanctioned.
“There is a saying among lawyers that it is easier to defend than to prosecute,” he added.
Nair said the burden was on the prosecution and the standard must be beyond reasonable doubt.
“The defence only needs to create doubt in the prosecution’s case to get an acquittal for the accused person.”
As such, he said, the prosecution needed “watertight” evidence, even if it meant obtaining it from foreign sources like overseas financial institutions.
“Mahathir is absolutely right that there is no point rushing because there is no limitation period in criminal prosecution,” he said.
Nair added that any attempt to frame charges due to public pressure would be unwise and foolhardy.