SRC Trial: Najib’s lawyers want court to force ‘uncooperative’ witness into interview

Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 17, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 17, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s SRC International Sdn Bhd corruption trial was adjourned early today after his defence complained that a witness they subpoenaed was “uncooperative” by refusing to be interviewed before testifying.

Najib’s lawyer, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, told the High Court the seventh defence witness, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigating officer Assistant Commissioner Mohd Nasharudin Amir, declined on February 15 to have his witness statement recorded by the defence.

“We want to interview the witness so we can cull his relevant evidence. It is a precondition to a fair trial.

“A witness who doesn’t cooperate, that is borderline contempt of court,” he argued in his oral application, adding that the defence wanted the court to order Nasharudin into the interview.

Muhammad Shafee said Nasharudin was not an ordinary layman witness and argued that the latter “owed a duty to truth and a fair trial” as a civil servant.

The senior lawyer asserted that the defence was entitled to the interview.

Nasharudin is the seventh defence witness subpoenaed by Najib’s lawyers and not amongst the list of witnesses offered by the prosecution to the defence team.

He was formerly an investigating officer in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) probe.

In a standard subpoena, the person named must be ordered to provide evidence in court, produce relevant documents pertaining to the case or a combination of these two.

Ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram then informed the court that Nasharudin was present today and prepared to give his testimony from the witness stand, regardless of whether he wished to be interviewed or not.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas also argued that a witness could decline to be interviewed before taking the stand and that the court has no power to compel the witness to be interviewed beforehand.

High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali asked to hear further arguments from Muhammad Shafee and Sithambaram when the trial resumes at the next scheduled date on February 24, before deciding whether the court could compel the witness to meet with the defence lawyers.

Najib is on trial over seven charges related to SRC International Sdn Bhd.

Three are for criminal breach of trust over a total RM42 million of SRC International funds while entrusted with its control as the prime minister and finance minister then, three more are for laundering the RM42 million, and the last is for abusing the same positions for self-gratification of the same sum.