Najib can call handwriting expert to examine documents, rules judge

Former prime minister Najib Razak wants an Australian expert to determine the authenticity of his signature on several documents.

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court today allowed Najib Razak’s application to call an expert to determine the authenticity of his signature on seven bank and company documents in his ongoing SRC International corruption trial.

Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said he was allowing the application in the interest of justice.

“Even if the application is made as an afterthought, it is the duty of the court to ensure that the integrity of the trial process is preserved,” he said.

Nazlan said he would also decide on the credibility of defence witnesses at the end of the defence case.

The judge, however, restricted Naib’s application to certain documents.

“The defence must make arrangements for the inspection to be done next week but for only two days,” he said, adding that the venue must be the court premises.

Nazlan also ruled that the prosecution would be allowed to give rebuttal evidence to challenge the testimony of the defence expert.

Last month, Najib filed the application to the court to allow Australian expert Steven Strach to examine the original or higher quality copies of the documents tendered in court.

Ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram submitted over the last two days that the defence’s attempt to call the handwriting expert was an afterthought to show that the former prime minister’s signature in the bank and company documents was forged.

Sithambaram also said the move was to change the defence which lawyers for the accused did not raise during the prosecution stage.

“It is a tactical manoeuvre to reopen the prosecution’s case,” he said.

He said the defence had not raised the issue of forgery before the trial and during the prosecution’s case.

There are six disputed documents which are related to SRC shareholders’ minutes and one on the instruction to transfer money to Ambank where Najib had private accounts.

The defence said the documents might have been forged and this was only discovered during the trial, but the prosecution claimed that Najib’s legal team had suspected that the documents were falsified and was communicating with a foregn expert about them.

Najib’s lawyer, Harvinderjit Singh, said the expert evidence was admissible, even if the prosecution was claiming it as an afterthought.

“It is for the court to decide on the weight of the evidence but it is definitely admissible in law,” he said.

Harvinderjit said the prosecution could not positively identify Najib’s signature and as such, the application to bring the expert must be allowed

Najib’s lead counsel, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, said his client must be allowed to put forward all available defence in the interest of justice.

Najib, who is also the Pekan MP, is accused of abusing his power as prime minister by giving government guarantees on SRC International’s RM4 billion loan from Retirement Fund Inc.

He is also charged with three counts of money laundering and three counts of criminal breach of trust in the transfer of RM42 million to his accounts from the former 1MDB unit.