The transfer of the High Court judge who found former prime minister Najib Razak guilty of seven corruption charges in July last year is a normal practice and does not raise any suspicions as far as those familiar with the judicial structure are concerned, MalaysiaNow has learnt.
This comes after news portal Malaysiakini reported that the approval for the transfer of judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali could “raise eyebrows” about the independence of the judiciary, quoting a lawyer who described it as “strange”.
Nazlan’s transfer was approved by Chief Judge of Malaya Azahar Mohamed and will take effect in March.
Several individuals familiar with the judicial process told MalaysiaNow that the transfer of judges was a routine process which takes place every three years.
“It’s a normal exercise. It is normal for judges to themselves ask for transfer, or the administration to give them an opportunity to gain experience somewhere else.
“Nothing to be read into it,” one source told MalaysiaNow in exchange for anonymity.
Nazlan, 54, was a commercial court judge before he was transferred to the High Court in August 2018 ahead of Najib’s trial for criminal breach of trust and abuse of power linked to RM42 million from SRC International.
In July last year, Nazlan sentenced Najib to 12 years’ jail and fined him RM210 million after convicting him of all seven charges related to the misappropriation of funds from SRC International.
Najib’s appeal, in which his lawyers have filed more than 300 grounds to set aside the conviction, will be heard on Feb 15.
In December, Nazlan gave former federal territories minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor a discharge not amounting to an acquittal for a charge of accepting a RM1 million bribe in 2013, after the prosecution inform the court of new details on the case.
Another source dismissed suggestions that Nazlan’s absence from hearing Najib’s trials would undermine the court’s independence.
He said Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had specifically mentioned the independence of judiciary in detailing the state of emergency to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The judiciary will continue to be the beacon of justice in our country and I will never interfere in the business of the courts,” Muhyiddin had said on Jan 12 in announcing the suspension of Parliament to prevent pandemic-season elections.