Najib pardon - 'Two wrongs don't make a right'

Evidence justified charges against Najib, trial not rushed

24 Feb 2024 09:31am
Lawyer LS Leonard addressed questions about the SRC International corruption case and former Najib's pardon, stressing the presence of evidence and due process. - Photo illustrated by Sinar Daily
Lawyer LS Leonard addressed questions about the SRC International corruption case and former Najib's pardon, stressing the presence of evidence and due process. - Photo illustrated by Sinar Daily

SHAH ALAM - The evidence to charge former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was sufficient and the charges framed against him were legally justified, according to a lawyer.

LS Leonard expressed this opinion when asked to comment on the entirety of Najib's court proceedings related to the SRC International Sdn Bhd corruption case during the recent Sana Sini podcast.

"Legally speaking, the evidence to charge Najib was present and therefore, the charges against him were legally justified.

"Whether the zealous action taken by the prosecution or the government to bring charges against Najib was politically motivated or not is a matter for political experts to answer," he said in the podcast.

Leonard was responding to questions from host former MIC Youth chief Senator Datuk Sivarraajh Chandran and co-host political analyst Professor Datuk Dr P. Sivamurugan about whether Najib's legal process was rushed or politically motivated.

"Was the legal judgment done hastily from a legal perspective? At the end, Najib was requesting an extension, but do you think the whole process was rushed to put him behind bars?," Sivamurugan questioned.

Sivarraajh, on the other hand, noted that some of Najib's supporters claimed that many other corruption offenders were still walking free or their cases have been ongoing for more than 10 years.

"I respect the layman's view, but two wrongs don't make a right.

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"In the past, especially before 2000, there were cases that lasted for 10 years or more in our criminal justice system.

"However, when Tun Zaki (sixth chief justice Tun Zaki Azmi) was around, he brought about many changes in the justice system, introducing a fast-tracking system where cases must be concluded within a year or two.

"Policies such as no backlog of cases were introduced.

"However, in Najib's cases, there were numerous applications which included nullification of the judge, to use further evidence to adjourn to stay the matter pending appeal... applications after applications were made.

"So, the claims about Najib not being given proper time are inaccurate, I would say.

"In the Federal Court alone, Najib changed his legal team. Lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik was appointed as his lead counsel in his final appeal in the SRC International case.

"By right, Najib should have been aware of all these. Changing your entire legal team is futile because Najib was informed that no adjournment would be given.

"Hence, the court saw Najib's efforts as an attempt to buy time.

"To be fair, the new lawyer should also be aware of this because they must take the case with the intention that they must be ready to go on and if they are not prepared, they should not take over such a case.

"As a lawyer, you have such obligations.

"So the court took into account these two factors and furthermore, this case is not a simple public interest litigation but an enormous public interest litigation case. So, the court wanted to continue the case," Leonard responded.

Sivarraajh then suggested that some of Najib's supporters claimed that the former Pekan MP did not really get a fair trial and Najib could have gotten a different outcome if Hisyam's team was given enough time to prepare for the case.

To this, Leonard replied that the court had provided enough avenues for Najib's various applications to be heard.

"From the court's perspective, Najib was given enough avenues to present his applications.

"This includes producing further evidence to disqualify judges and disqualify the prosecution team; the court actually took time to hear them.

"In fact, he even applied for a Queen's Counsel," he said.

Sivaraajh also questioned why the Queen's Counsel was not allowed.

Leonard explained that there were enough local experts available.

"You can appoint lawyers, advocates and solicitors in this country, but if you want to seek foreign expertise, you must prove that we don't have any available local experts. The Bar Council also objected.

"This can be done if such an appointment is needed for national interest. Even the Queen's Counsel application was heard.

In a related matter, Sivamurugan also questioned the possibility of Najib reapplying for a full pardon.

"Right or wrong, once the new Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Ibrahim is settled down, especially in managing his affairs, Najib's legal team will definitely reapply.

"It is reasonable to accept that Najib has an avenue to reapply for a pardon," Leonard said.

Sivarraajh also asked whether the money going into Najib's personal bank account alone was enough evidence to defeat Najib in this case because some of his supporters felt that was the sole reason he was convicted.

Leonard debunked this theory, saying ample evidence was presented during the court proceedings.

"There was ample evidence presented. Directions were given to the banks.

"To put it in legal terms, there was beyond a reasonable doubt of evidence for the court to come up with such a decision," he said.

Sivamurugan also asked whether the court's decision was still legitimate despite the absence of Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, in the whole court proceedings.

To this, Leonard said this was not a case of conspiracy.

"It was a case of... I would use the loose commercial crime terms like money laundering and criminal breach of trust.

"As long as you dealt with money you shouldn't have, you are guilty.

Sivarraajh concluded the session with a reminder, saying this was a lesson for politicians in general that their actions were being noticed and there was no such thing as one can escape with their embezzlements or corruption-related activities.

"What happened to Najib can happen to anyone. Just do your job and serve the people as required," he said.