'Where is Najib? Why is he not in court?' Judge orders proceedings to continue in the afternoon

PUTRAJAYA: The hearing for an application by Datuk Seri Najib Razak (pic) to adduce new evidence in his appeal to set aside the conviction and sentence in the SRC International Sdn Bhd appeal will proceed via online at 12.30pm on Tuesday (Dec 7), despite his defence team's plea to postpone the proceedings.

Court of Appeal judge Justice Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil gave strict orders for the proceedings to continue at noon, after hearing from both the defence and the prosecution.

The entire defence team was absent save for lawyer Harvinder Singh Sidhu, who appeared on behalf of the absent Najib.

"This is my direction – the case will be heard at 12.30pm. Failing which, we will decide this afternoon," he said in open court here on Tuesday.

The two other judges on the panel were Justices Has Zanah Mehat and Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera.

The development came after a letter from Messrs Shafee & Co, signed by lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, informing the court that a member in their legal team was down with Covid-19.

The defence sought to adjourn the hearing of their application, which was scheduled to be heard in the morning, as well as the decision in the SRC appeal scheduled for Wednesday (Dec 8).

Ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram told the court that the prosecution was "shocked" by the turn of events.

"This appears to be a last-minute attempt to scuttle the hearing and depending on the outcome, the decision," he said.

Sithambaram said there were previous attempts to postpone the proceedings in the past, which had failed.

He also pointed out that Muhammad Shafee was only a casual contact and the defence could proceed with the hearing of their own application online.

"Justice is for both parties, for the prosecution who represents the public interest and also for the accused," he added.

Harvinder, however, told the court that they could not proceed via Zoom as the submissions for the hearing were not ready due to the Covid-19 scare that took place in the legal firm.

"We are at a disadvantage if we are to proceed by Zoom. We cannot do it today," he added.

Justice Abdul Karim called for Najib's bailor, Faizal Shamsuddin, to step forward to ask about Najib's whereabouts.

Najib's second bailor, Alias Yahya, was not present in court.

"Where is Najib? Why is he not in court? The responsibility of the bailor is heavy – you have to ensure that he is here.

"If we are dissatisfied, we can revoke bail and issue an arrest warrant for him," the judge said.

Justice Abdul Karim said the court had two options – to revoke bail and issue a warrant of arrest or order for the proceedings to continue online.

"The courts have enough experience to handle proceedings online. We have done proceedings even when parties are in the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan.

"It is better for this case to be heard online, safer for everyone. It is weird to say that parties cannot participate in Zoom when almost everybody now has a computer," he said.

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