KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Razak was shocked that he had been ordered to enter his defence against all seven charges of abusing SRC International Sdn Bhd funds today.
“He was expecting to be acquitted of all the charges,” said Najib’s lawyer, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.
The lead counsel in Najib’s defence team said that the former Prime Minister had anticipated being acquitted, as he felt that the defence had successfully rebutted every single point raised by the prosecution.
“So, of course, he was surprised… ‘shocked’ is the word,” Shafee said.
In a Facebook posting after the proceedings, Najib said that the ruling would enable him to call his own witnesses to testify.
He said so far, only the prosecution had been giving their version of events.
“So, by giving the defence an opportunity to call our witnesses, it will enable me to give a true picture of events and prove that I am not guilty.
“InsyaAllah, this is an opportunity to clear my name in court,” he said.
Meanwhile, Shafee said he, too, had anticipated an acquittal based on their overwhelming submissions.
However, he said one could never predict the outcome of a trial, as a judge would have his or her own views and interpretation of things.
“What can I say… the learned judge saw things differently and we respect his views.
“I am sad that the defence was called, but in many ways, I am also happy for two reasons. One is: You will now hear the real story from Najib… his version of what happened in SRC International.
“We will hear whether or not he was actually in control of SRC International,” he said.
Asked how long he expects the defence would take to present its case, Shafee said it may take up to March or April next year, before the trial is concluded.
However, he said the entire case may go on until after the next general election, if it goes to the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court.
On how today’s ruling will affect Najib’s 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial, Shafee said “technically, it wouldn’t”.
“Because this is SRC International, where it is all local transactions. It is not 1MDB’s money.
“I think we are doing extremely well (with the 1MDB case). I mean, you have heard all the witnesses, and you have to stop and ask for a while whether this is a joke that is going on,” he said, adding that he plans to call several witnesses to testify during the defence stage, including professionals and experts.
Asked on fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low’s, recent settlement with the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) and how it will affect Najib’s defence strategy, Shafee said it would not harm his case.
“It actually indicates that Jho Low is the one who has got something to worry about.
“Apart from pulling a Houdini on us, the others who were complicit with him have also disappeared and are on the run.
“The fact that he has settled US$1 billion shows he took the money. In fact, you and I know he took something like US$5 or US$6 billion,” he said.
Shafee said Najib is not going to run away from the fact that he knew Low.
He said his client is, however, going to dispute that he knew about Low’s criminal intentions.
“You must bear in mind that in this case, you have to distinguish (between) whether Najib was naïve or too trusting, from whether he had a criminal mind, like that of Jho Low.
“To convict him, you must be satisfied that he had the same mind as Jho Low’s.
“In terms of 1MDB, all the money that was sent to him was donation money. What did he spend it on? Did he buy Balenciaga, Bally or other branded items? He spent it all on welfare and political purposes, you know that,” he said.
Shafee said one has to ask oneself whether this is the mentality of a thief or that of a person who trusted the people around him, and they let him down.
It was reported that the DoJ had reached a settlement to recover more than US$700 million worth of assets from Low and his family using funds misappropriated from 1MDB.
The assets are located in the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
The settlement, the DoJ said, forces Low and his family to relinquish hundreds of billions of dollars in ill-gotten gains that were intended to be used for the benefit of the Malaysian people.
Low, however, maintains that the agreement does not constitute an admission of guilt, liability or any form of wrongdoing by him or the asset owners.