Dignified silence in adversity has turned out not to be Najib’s style. Egged on by his showman lawyer, Shafee Abdullah, the now twice convicted ex-PM has grandstanded throughout his trial, seeking sympathy in the court of public opinion in defiance of the courts of law.
To hell with the facts, just politicise the matter as if it were between ‘them’ and ‘us’, not right and wrong. Keep up the charade and keep up the delays until the political landscape is more amenable to issuing pardons and dropping charges.
However, there are reasons why more cautious lawyers advise their clients to zip their lips in circumstances such as these and today proved why. After having been found guilty, the ex-PM effectively admitted it: Ooops.
The gaffe came as Najib took to the various media channels this morning in his usual defiant mode, expressing his ‘disappointment’ at the unanimous rejection by the Court of Appeal of his appeal against his convictions for fraud and theft.
Speaking on BFM Radio, he complained about the judgement’s description of his criminal actions as being a ‘national embarrassment’, rather than being ‘in the national interest’ as he had claimed.
According to Najib, by describing his thefts of public money in such a manner the judges were over-stating things. Given so many other ‘colossal scandals’ have also allegedly taken place under the governance of his party UMNO, they ought to have got things into a “proper perspective”!
“If you talk about ‘national embarrassment’ the other scandalous er I would say issues, for example the scandal surrounding the foreign exchange which led to the loss of about RM31 billion. If you put it in that context isn’t that a much more colossal national embarrassment? I’d just like to put it in proper perspective” [Najib on BFM Radio]
So, will the next round of appeals that lawyer Shafee is entering at this very moment rely on the argument that the SRC thefts of millions of ringgit into his own bank accounts were simply too small to make a fuss about, compared to far greater sums allegedly stolen by other kleptocrats in Malaysia?
That this is what Najib meant is strengthened by the fact this was the exact same argument deployed by his fugitive proxy, Jho Low, when quizzed by journalists soon before he went on the run in 2015:
“There are so many other people who get away with simply ridiculous billions and billions and billions worth of projects. But every single time there seems to be a political attack Wow suddenly Jho is there again” Interview Euromoney Magazine
If this is Najib’s idea of a ‘proper perspective’ one wonders why KL’s jails are bursting with people found guilty of far, far, far lesser crimes, incarcerated with lengthy sentences whilst he was in charge of the country?
Despite the damning dismissal of Shafee’s litany of objections, Malaysia’s national embarrassment is set to nonetheless continue. Like few other countries, the court yet again granted the same, self-pitying politician bail over his enormous crimes, buying him yet more months to parade his woes.
Worse, Najib continues to be transported like a senior representative of the nation with a full police escort at public expense (the protection kind as opposed to the custody kind).
The criminal organisation ,UMNO, which poses as a political party, has meanwhile made no effort to expel this caught and convicted leading member from its ranks. To the contrary, they not only rely on his and the votes of other charged kleptocrat colleagues to stay in power, they are pleased to lionise him like some persecuted hero.
Opportunists from other parties are hanging on for their own share of protection and pickings and claim piety. Very many Malaysians had wearily expected to see Najib return as PM before the next election – head of an army of plundering crooks acting as the champions of the very poor and middle class folk they have been stealing from.
But it clearly hasn’t worked and won’t. Malaysia’s judiciary, whilst deferentially lenient towards those with power, have hung on to their wider independence in the full knowledge that the world will treat the country as a rogue state if Najib is brazenly allowed to walk free after being caught robbing his own people.
The ruling was an eloquent and astute rendering of the facts by clear headed judges who proved impervious to schoolboy lies and the protracted campaign to influence their deliberations.
Among the many ludicrous and conflicting excuses put forward by Najib, which the three judges slapped down, was his claim he had believed the money that entered his accounts was a donation from the Saudi King. The judges pointed out that, according to his earlier spurious stories, Najib had received the alleged donation back in 2013 and then sent the unused portion back to the donor following the election.
Yet, the transfers to SRC were in 2014. So how could Najib claim he understood they were part of the donation of the previous year? They also pointed out that Najib had been involved at every step of the way in setting up the fund with all its borrowings in his role as the supreme controller and micro-manager of SRC. It was he who agitated the pension fund KWAP for a $4 billion loan and organised for the government to guarantee it.
He then used his powers to get all the money expensively released from KWAP at once and signed off for much of it to be sent abroad, despite there being no clear objective for these decisions. Yet later, when most of the cash duly went missing (much of it into his own accounts) he ceased to show any further interest in it fate, say the judges, leading to only one logical conclusion in their minds:
[Najib] was actively involved in ensuring that the KWAP loans were disbursed to SRC. However, after the funds had been disbursed, the appellant became indifferent to the whereabouts of the funds, and did not inquire from SRC as to what had happened to the funds, nor how it was utilised and for what purpose. He even instructed the second Finance Minister then to keep off SRC. This conduct of the appellant [Najib] can be Indicative of only one thing, and that is, once the funds had been secured by SRC, over which the appellant had over arching control, he was free to utilise them for his personal benefit. This is manifested by the flow of the RM42 million from SRC into his personal accounts. This is not something that can be said to have been done in the national interest.. There is no national interest here, just a national embarrassment”.
As we know, Najib has responded by telling the judges to put things in a ‘proper perspective’ and he continues to grandstand and be patted on the back by his political allies who are dominating the country thanks to the backing of Najib’s local royal, the present monarch. Talk about national embarrassments.
Together these allies are set to force through an inflated and opaque ‘Covid’ budget, for which Najib has been cited as a key advisor, owing to his ‘financial experience’.
Meanwhile, Najib’s lawyer Shafee is busy with his next round of appeals to the Federal Court, which Malaysia’s legal establishment are now agreed have virtually no chance whatsoever of success, in the light of the damning evidence and judgements that have gone before.
So, here is the best advice. Despite all the grand sympathy and support, Najib should accept the gravity of his situation, stop the game-playing and sack Shafee instead. Not least, because if there has been one thing more disgraceful than the global spectacle he has made of himself it has been the antics of this lawyer whose only talents lie in his brazen defiance of convention and the rules.
Shafee should be dismissed to face his own long overdue prosecution for money laundering and tax evasion without the further excuse of Najib’s trial or his own three wives (cited to get his passport back) to hold things up.
Today was a water-shed, because there is no further roll of the dice for Najib, who once believed he had all to play for. Shafee’s delays and Covid excuses could not in the end prevent the judgement of the Malaysian court, which is the judgement of the nation and the world.
No amount of unproven letters, claiming to be from royal Arab donors, complaints about others supposed to be just as guilty or reminders of other allegedly worse scandals can save Najib from the eventually being brought to book.
UMNO has even tried a coup and it hasn’t worked. After today, Najib must ditch the hope of being free to contend at the next election (he is disbarred by his conviction). So neither can he hope to trump his fate via the ballot box.
Short of arresting all the judges and declaring emergency rule plus the end of constitutional rule of law in Malaysia, Najib is going to have to face his punishment – not only for SRC but for even graver 1MDB convictions that are still to come. These concern the much greater sums of money he sent abroad and then pretended had not gone missing (till again they turned up in his own billion dollar bank account).
Shafee may have helped with the Altantuya cover-ups. He may have helped force Anwar into jail. He has managed to delay Najib’s trials by months and years. However, he has shown that he cannot help Najib win his cases over SRC or 1MDB.
The attempt to politicise this crime has failed to work. His client is found guilty and today with all the risky tactics and showmanship Najib has even let slip that fact from his own guilty mouth.
Najib needs a proper lawyer so he can plead guilty for a lighter sentence and spare himself and his country any more of the national embarrassment that has been orchestrated by this huckster.