PUTRAJAYA: Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak on Thursday (Jan 19) failed in his attempt to recuse one of the sitting judges in his review application over his conviction in the RM42 million (US$9.4 million) SRC International case.

SRC is a former subsidiary of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd investment fund.

Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abdul Rahman Sebli said the court was not persuaded by Najib’s lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s argument that Justice Abu Bakar Jais, a Court of Appeal judge, should recuse himself from hearing the review application.

“In our view, the law is clear that the Chief Justice (Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat) is vested with discretionary power to empanel the Court of Appeal judge (Justice Abu Bakar) to sit at the panel of the Federal Court, pursuant to Article 122 (2) of the Federal Constitution,” said Justice Abdul Rahman.

“For the same reason, we reject the argument that Justice Abu Bakar should not be involved in the hearing of the review application.

“In the circumstances, the preliminary objection is dismissed. We shall proceed to hear the application.”

The other judges on the panel are Federal Court judges Vernon Ong Lam Kiat, Rhodzariah Bujang and Nordin Hassan.

Earlier, Shafee had raised an objection, saying that Justice Abu Bakar should not be present on the panel on this matter.

Najib’s counsel also wanted Justice Abu Bakar to recuse himself, stating that only Federal Court judges should be on the bench.

Shafee said that according to Section 74 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1974, the composition of the panel must consist of Federal Court judges only. 

Lead prosecutor V Sithambaram countered that such an arrangement to co-opt a Court of Appeal judge was allowed under Article 122 (2) of the Federal Constitution.

Najib, in his review application, is seeking to overturn the decision made by a five-member bench of the Federal Court led by Justice Tengku Maimun on Aug 23 last year, which found him guilty of misappropriating RM42 million of SRC International funds.

He was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million (US$49.38 million).

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