SRC Trial: Alleged forged documents need to be conclusively determined, says defence

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 20): Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak's legal team today proceeded with its application in the High Court for an expert witness to be brought in to verify documents bearing the former premier's signatures which were allegedly forged.

Najib's counsel Harvinderjit Singh argued that the documents have yet to be conclusively determined and it is the onus of the prosecution to call an expert to verify the documents.

"We (the defence) have the right to explain or rebut the evidence presented. It is the onus of the prosecution to verify these documents. If they do so, then we would not have a problem," he said during his submission before Justice Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.

He also contended that the prosecution had tried to "close the gap" by asking Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission investigating officer Rosli Hussain whether the accused had disputed his signature when being questioned by the commission, to which the witness had said no.

Harvinderjit also explained that the disputed documents tendered by the prosecution were not the primary original documents as they appear to be copies.

"The documents that are being disputed were tendered via witnesses who merely had sight of them. None of the witnesses had personal knowledge as to the provenance of the documents including the circumstances in which the documents came to be prepared or purportedly executed," he said.

He added that no witnesses could confirm the authenticity of the documents and of the signatures.

Harvinderjit also contended that at no point during the prosecution's case did the defence admit to the authenticity of the documents.

"Given the issue of the authenticity of the disputed documents is to be determined at the end of the case, the applicant (Najib) must be entitled to procure all relevant evidence to enable a fair and just determination to be made," he said.

He also argued that according to Article 5 of the Federal Constitution, Najib as an accused has a constitutional right to a fair trial.

"The applicant is entitled at the stage of the defence case to be able to procure and adduce such relevant and admissible evidence as part of his defence," he said.

Harvinderjit said the defence has procured a preliminary report from the expert, one Dr Steven Starch from Australia.

He said the defence had in early December forwarded scanned copies of the disputed documents to the expert, who is located in Australia.

However, the expert had said there were limitations as he cannot determine the authenticity of the signatures until he gets the primary documents.

Harvinderjit went on to say that the expert was necessary because the documents were only shown to them during the course of the trial.

"Half the things we found out during the trial were not told to us. The cutting and pasting of the signatures was discovered during the trial. The BBM [BlackBerry Messenger] chats were only revealed during the trial," he said, citing examples.

Harvinderjit also argued that the confirmation that a document contains Najib's signature does not mean that he executed the document.

"There is a vital distinction between the admission of the signature and the admission of execution," he said, adding that the prosecution was not dealing with the original documents either.

Document expert not a hired gun

In the latter part of his application, Harvinderjit had addressed the assumption that the defence's document expert is a trained witness and will only give testimony favouring Najib. He said this can be determined at the discretion of the court once the witness is heard.

"The evidence goes in first and then the prosecution can determine. We haven't even heard from Dr Steven Starch yet. We should let the evidence be presented first," he said.

Harvinderjit wrapped up his application by saying that his client wants to prove that it was not his signatures on said documents.

"Is Your Lordship really convinced that the signatures are authentic? All the applicant is asking for is to provide some evidence to assist Your Lordship in that," he said.

Proceedings for the application were adjourned after ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V Sithambaram had finished part of his submission.

This was after Harvinderjit requested for some time to craft his response to the prosecution.

Justice Nazlan allowed for the adjournment till 9am tomorrow.

The defence today applied for 13 disputed documents, which have been tendered as exhibits in the trial, to be made available for examination by the expert document examiner in question.

Najib is battling seven charges of misappropriating RM42 million from SRC, a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

The Edge is reporting the proceedings of the SRC trial live.

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