‘Real danger’ of trial judge’s impartiality in SRC case, Najib’s lawyer tells apex court

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The Federal Court was today told that there was a real danger regarding the impartiality of Mohd Nazlan Ghazali, the High Court trial judge who convicted Najib Razak in the SRC International case.

Najib’s lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik submitted that as a former long-term employee of Maybank, Nazlan’s previous conduct might also give grounds for a reasonable person to believe that he could not act with an objective mind.

Hisyam said this in his submission in the former prime minister’s motion to adduce new evidence in the SRC International case, in his bid to ultimately seek a retrial before a five-member panel chaired by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat.

The additional evidence Najib is seeking to adduce relates to the recent discovery that Nazlan was in 2006 the general counsel and company secretary for Maybank Group, and had the ultimate overall responsibility for the management and administration of all legal departments within the group.

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Citing a serious conflict of interest, the defence contended that the investigating authorities had suppressed or failed to disclose the materials which would have enabled Najib to raise the objection based on the trial judge’s conflict of interest at an earlier stage of the proceedings.

Hisyam also argued that the hearing of the appeal proper should be deferred until such a time that the investigation into Nazlan’s role is complete.

The court was also told that the prosecution did not supply the evidence relating to Nazlan’s purported conflict of interest to the defence during the trial which was started in April 2019.

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The lawyer said if not for the anonymous envelopes sent to Najib between May 9 and July 7, allegedly containing the fresh evidence, the defence team would not have been aware of its existence.

He further said that his client was at the time unaware of Nazlan’s alleged knowledge and involvement in the establishment of SRC International through his then position as general counsel of Maybank Investment.

Earlier, Tengku Maimun allowed the defence’s application to amend Najib’s notice of motion to adduce new evidence before proceeding to hear the motion.

The other judges on the bench are Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Federal Court judges Nallini Pathmanathan, Mary Lim Thiam Suan and Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah.

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The court today heard Najib’s application to adduce new evidence.

If Najib fails in this application, the Federal Court is expected to proceed with the hearing of his appeal against his conviction and the sentence imposed on him by Nazlan on July 28, 2020.

Lead prosecutor V Sithambaram will reply to the defence’s submission after lunch break. The court session resumed at 2pm.

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