Najib, from highest office to courthouse dock

Former prime minister Najib Razak stands trial today on seven charges pertaining to SRC International.

PETALING JAYA: On this day 10 years ago, Najib Razak took office as the country’s sixth prime minister. Today, he will stand trial for seven charges pertaining to SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary.

The journey to today’s trial, which began some eight months ago, has been complex with twists and turns along the way.

Lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali said after the initial dates were set, Najib’s defence team, led by veteran lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, filed four applications.

They were related to Najib’s request for additional documents to prepare his defence, a gag order to prevent the media and public from discussing his case, a challenge to the constitutionality of a certificate to transfer seven cases from the Sessions Court to the High Court, and a stay of the trial in view of special circumstances.

The four applications were dismissed by the High Court and Najib’s defence team then took them to the Court of Appeal.

“The Court of Appeal judges decided to dismiss three of the applications and only granted his appeal for a stay.

“Najib’s defence then filed an appeal against the dismissal of the three applications by the High Court and Court of Appeal and is taking it to the Federal Court. That case will be heard tomorrow (Thursday),” Rafique said.

Pending that hearing, he said Najib’s defence applied for a stay of all hearings as they argued that the Federal Court should decide on the three applications first, but this was rejected by the apex court last week.

Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali.

“The Federal Court said the Court of Appeal did not have the power to stay proceedings and this is why the trial starts today.”

Rafique said that in his view, there is no issue with the trial starting before the applications are heard as the decisions on the applications do not prejudice Najib.

“In a criminal trial, a defendant – in this case, Najib – can raise anything and everything in his defence, including procedural impropriety,” he said.

He cited previous cases where the court decided that a trial was not being conducted properly and called for a fresh trial.

“If the decisions on the applications are in Najib’s favour, there will definitely be a delay as fresh charges will be laid against him and the whole process will start again,” he said.

Rafique said this would mean another long process, which could see Najib only going to trial months later.

Still, he said, it is not a risk for the prosecution to proceed with the trial today.

“For the prosecution, their duty is to present all available evidence to the court, and they cannot do so until and unless they go to trial.”

Rafique said it would be ideal for the Federal Court to reveal its grounds for judgment in proceeding with today’s case although it is not unusual to dismiss or allow appeals without giving full grounds.