KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 — Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali who convicted former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in July last year will be transferred from Kuala Lumpur criminal court to the civil court.

In a circular issued by the Bar Council to all members of the Bar yesterday, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed directed the transfer of Nazlan from the Kuala Lumpur High Court (Criminal 3) to Kuala Lumpur High Court (NCvC 2), effective March 1.

“The Chief Judge of Malaya, Azahar Mohamed, has extended to us a copy of a directive for change (pertukaran) His Honourable Judge of the High Court of Malaya Bil 2/2021.

“Please be informed that the following placement will take effect on March 1, 2021 (Monday),” said the circular which was provided yesterday.

Malaysiakini reported senior member of the Bar, Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar saying the transfer in light of Nazlan’s role in presiding over Najib’s RM42 million SRC International corruption trial would raise eyebrows.

According to Syed Iskandar, the transfer could possibly make the public question whether independence of the judiciary is truly being upheld.

“It is strange for such a transfer to only involve a single judge. We should have instead been on the path to independence of the judiciary with Nazlan’s brave decision,” he said as reported by Malaysiakini.

On July 28 last year, Nazlan convicted Najib over all the seven charges — covering the offences of criminal breach of trust, power abuse, money laundering — in relation to SRC International’s RM42 million.

On the abuse of power offence, Najib was slapped with a 12-year jail term and fined RM210 million. For the three criminal breach of trust charges, the jail term imposed on Najib was 10 years for each offence, and for the three money laundering charges, the jail term imposed were 10 years for each offence. No fines were imposed for the money laundering charges.

However, the former premier would only have to serve 12 years in prison as the judge ordered that the sentences run concurrently, instead of the 72 years if the jail term were to be served consecutively.

In the event of a default on the RM210 million fine — which is five times the RM42 million in gratification received by Najib — he would be jailed five more years.

However, Najib’s defence succeeded in obtaining a stay of execution of the sentences, pending disposal of an appeal at the Court of Appeal.

Nazlan was transferred to the criminal court from the commercial court in August 2018 taking over Najib’s case from then High Court judge Justice Datuk Mohd Sofian Abd Razak.

Sofian had recused himself from the case after the Malaysian Bar requested it as his brother is Pahang state executive councillor and Benta Umno state assemblyman Datuk Seri Mohd Soffi Abdul Razak. Sofian was elevated as a judge from the High Court to the Court of Appeal in March 2020.   

Nazlan was initially also the judge presiding over Najib and former treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah’s criminal breach of trust case (CBT) involving RM6.6 billion of government funds, but the case was in October 2020 transferred to be heard before High Court judge Datuk Muhammad Jamil Hussin with trial scheduled to start in September.

Nazlan is also set to deliver a decision on former Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad on February 3.

Isa was charged with nine counts of gratification for himself in cash totalling RM3,090,000 from Ikhwan Zaidel, who is a board member of Gegasan Abadi Properties Sdn Bhd (the company which previously owned MPHS), through Muhammad Zahid for helping to approve the purchase of the hotel by Felda Investment Corp Sdn Bhd (FIC), a subsidiary of Felda.

Another 1MDB-linked case that is pending before Nazlan’s criminal court is the government’s US$340 million forfeiture suit against PetroSaudi International Limited and four others.

On December last year, Nazlan has also granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) to former federal territories minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor on December 7 last year in the accused’s RM1 million corruption case after an appeal from the prosecutors who cited that new developments in the case warranted further investigation.