Reports by CHELSEA L.Y.NG, QISHIN TARIQ, NURBAITI HAMDAN, ROYCE TAN, FATIMAH ZAINAL, ASHLEY TANG, RAZAK AHMAD, EDDIE CHUA, JOSEPH KAOS Jr, ALEX TENG and RASHVINJEET S. BEDI
PETALING JAYA: Facing charges involving millions of ringgit and loads of documents with complicated evidence, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is set to endure a lengthy trial as he fights accusations of criminal breach of trust and abuse of power.
Lawyers familiar with white collar crime cases are saying that such a case could take years to conclude.
Some say that at best, it would take a good few months given the fact that Najib is a former prime minister and the court would prioritise the hearing.
Bearing in mind that Najib is also being probed over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) case involving an even greater amount of money, he is set to face a long drawn out battle in court.
Lawyer Datuk Hasnal Rezua Merican said a normal case involving CBT would take 18 to 24 months or even longer if there were interlocutory applications in between.
“Since the trial is fixed for 19 days, I assume there must be quite a number of witnesses involved.
“The trial will commence with witnesses adducing evidence for the prosecution. Then, there will be submissions by both the defence and prosecution as to whether a prima facie case has been made.
“If the case goes on, both the prosecution and defence will submit and the court will have to make a decision. I am sure that either way, the matter will go on appeal to both the Court of Appeal and Federal Court,” Hasnal said.
Another lawyer, Kitson Foong, said he expected the case to be long-drawn out with detailed cross-examination by Najib’s defence team.
“Unless, of course, the learned trial judge vacates his calendar from all cases and focuses strictly on this case and nothing else. In that case, they could finish in between eight and 10 months.
“But to complete the trial from start to finish, I would say approximately a year and a half just for the prosecution to close its case.
“Seeing that Shafee (Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah) is a lead counsel who, as we all know, has got a full court calendar even without this case, the length of time could be doubled,” said Foong.
He said the court case normally involved the calling of witnesses and tendering of supporting documents, which could be tedious and time-consuming.
“Often, the defence will object to the admissibility of each document as the maker is not present to verify it.
“If photocopies are sought to be tendered instead of the original (best evidence) documents, each witness involved in the chain of operation has to be called,” said Foong.
He added that the defence would then present their case.
“Multiply all the above for each charge and we have ourselves a long drawn-out siege of a castle just like the one in the Lord of the Rings trilogy,” said Foong.
Datuk Arunan Selvaraj, another senior lawyer, echoed the same sentiment, predicting that it could take months or years depending on the number of witnesses and availability of the court’s time.
“The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission would certainly have had preliminary sufficient evidence of the wrongdoing considering that the arrest has been made.
“There have been various sources of reliable information in relation to the money trail and a few persons who were involved may come forward to cooperate. This will further facilitate the process.
“Then again, I’m sure both parties will appeal the matter to the highest level and this will take time like other high-profile cases in Malaysia,” he added.
Senior criminal lawyer and former prosecutor Datuk Hazman Ahmad said the voluminous documents would take a long time for trial.
“In a criminal trial, because of the burden of proof, witnesses need to be called to prove every document. Nowadays, it is considered not too bad. The trial can finish in two to three years,” he said.
Lawyer S.N. Nair said the case would definitely be protracted as it would involve tonnes of documents.