Lawyers: Najib not entitled to documents right after charges

Former prime minister Najib Razak on his arrival at court yesterday. His lawyer has asked why the prosecution did not provide them with any documents after Najib was charged. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Two lawyers have countered complaints that Najib Razak’s defence was not given any documents after the charges against the former prime minister yesterday, saying there is no specific law stating that the papers must be handed over immediately.

Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali.

Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali said for Najib’s lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, to claim that the defence must be given the documents at once went against the grain of a criminal trial in the country.

“There is no specific law which says the accused must be supplied with the documents upon being charged,” he said, adding that Shafee should not play to the gallery.

He told FMT that the defence in a criminal case is usually given documents after the accused is charged, as required under Section 51A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

However, he added that this would take place during the first case management exercise, which was usually a month after the accused was charged.

“In our country, the net effect of Section 51A is that the prosecution is to supply the relevant documents which they will rely on during the trial. That is to be given to the defence before the trial commences.”

Yesterday, Shafee had questioned the prosecution’s conduct in not furnishing the defence with any documents after Najib was charged.

“What we have is only the charge sheet,” he said. “I do not even have my client’s cautioned statement or other documents for us to prepare the case.”

Adding that former attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail had said they were prepared to charge Najib in July 2015, Shafee said they should have had the documents ready by now.

He also told reporters that when he represented former Selangor menteri besar Muhammad Muhammad Taib in Australia for making false currency declarations, the prosecution had handed over the documents the same day his client was charged.

Salim Bashir.

However, lawyer Salim Bashir agreed with Rafique, saying there was no “hard and fast rule” that the documents must be handed over immediately after the accused is charged.

Usually, he said, the prosecution only provides the defence with the charge sheet “soon” after the accused is charged.

He said following the Federal Court ruling in Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II case, the documents which the prosecution would rely on to prove its case must be given to the defence before the trial begins.

Under Section 172A of the CPC, he added, the court must ensure that the documents are handed over to the defence during case management and before the trial begins.

“However, there is a slight amendment to the law. If the documents are not in the possession of the prosecution, they can provide them in the midst of the trial, provided it is done in good faith.”

Najib is facing three charges of criminal breach of trust and a fourth on abuse of power in connection with RM42 million belonging to former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd.

He claimed trial to all four charges and was allowed bail of RM1 million in two sureties. He was also ordered to surrender his passport to the court.

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