MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Monday, February 27, 2023

DPP: Najib's SRC appeal went wrong when 'changing horses midstream'


Najib Abdul Razak’s appeal in the RM42 million SRC International corruption case went wrong when the former premier “changed horses midstream”, the Federal Court heard today.

In countering against the former PM’s application to review his conviction and sentencing upheld by the Federal Court last year, deputy public prosecutor V Sithambaram contended this in relation to Najib switching counsel during his appeal last August.

Najib had replaced lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah with a legal team comprising Hisyam Teh Poh Teik as well as counsel from Zaid Ibrahim’s law firm.

During the SRC review hearing before the present apex court bench today, the DPP questioned why Shafee represented Najib when the case was at the High Court and Court of Appeal level, but the former finance minister then changed lawyers before the Federal Court hearing of his appeal in August last year.

“What had gone wrong for the appellant (Najib) was that he attempted to change horses midstream after the case was heard in the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Then at the Federal Court they tried to change horses very close to the hearing (of the SRC review).

"If not for this ‘changing of horses’, I do not think it (review) would be before Your Lordship today. While the (accused) has the right to choose counsel, the counsel must be ready to act and willing to act on the given day," Sithambaram said.

Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah

Among the crux of Najib’s review application was that the previous apex bench chaired by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat had erred when denying an application from the former premier’s then counsel to adjourn the appeal hearing as they needed more time to prepare for the appeal.

On Aug 23 last year, the Federal Court panel dismissed Najib’s appeal to quash his conviction as well as a 12-year jail sentence and RM210 million fine in the SRC corruption case.

After that, Najib rehired Shafee for the review hearing before the present Federal Court bench chaired by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abdul Rahman Sebli.

The other members of the present bench are Federal Court judges Vernon Ong Lam Kiat, Rhodzariah Bujang and Nordin Hassan, as well as Court of Appeal judge Abu Bakar Jais.

Shafee: Switch done in good faith

Later today, in reply to the prosecution’s contention, Shafee claimed that the switch in legal teams was done in good faith (bona fide).

This is as Najib was hit with a setback when the courts denied his bid to get United Kingdom-based King’s Counsel Jonathan Laidlaw to represent him in the appeal.

Jonathan Laidlaw

Laidlaw’s appeal to be allowed to act for Najib is still pending before the Federal Court.

Shafee rubbished the prosecution’s contention that Najib’s switch of counsel was a ploy to delay the SRC appeal last year, contending that Najib merely wanted to change the course of his thinking in fighting for the appeal.

The lawyer pointed out that the prosecution last year did not raise any objection to the defence team’s bid to adjourn the SRC appeal hearing.

“It was bona fide and there is no agenda to engineer an adjournment,” Shafee said.

The counsel contended that the previous apex court bench erred when it denied Hisyam’s application to discharge himself from representing Najib as the law actually allowed lawyers to discharge without seeking the court’s leave.

Shafee made reference to a circular issued by the Supreme Court of Malaysia dated Nov 17, 1960, which states that there is no question of a lawyer needing leave of the court to discharge themselves from representing a client.

Hisyam Teh Poh Teik

Last year, the apex court did not allow Hisyam to discharge himself when the latter reasoned that he was not prepared to submit for his client, following the denial of the adjournment bid.

Shafee today contended that the previous apex court bench in effect sanctioned an "ineffective counsel" (Hisyam) to represent Najib in the SRC appeal hearing, which amounted to a violation of the former premier’s human rights and the right to a fair trial.

Shafee pointed out that the previous apex bench wrongly blamed Najib over the change of counsel, contending that the former premier had in good faith followed the advice of his then lawyers to seek an adjournment.

“It is ridiculous to get three law firms together to be in a conspiracy (as alleged by the prosecution) to adjourn this (SRC appeal). This is worst than a scandal at a monastery,” Shafee said in reference to the three law firms involving himself, Hisyam and Zaid.

The hearing resumes tomorrow morning.

Review application

Having exhausted his appeals before the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court, Najib has gone before the current Federal Court panel to hear his review over the case involving one count of abuse of power, three counts of criminal breach of trust, and three money laundering charges.

Incarcerated in Kajang Prison, Najib is also pursuing other avenues outside the judiciary, namely a petition for a royal pardon as well as a petition before the United Nations over his alleged arbitrary detention.

Through the present review application, Najib contends that trial judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, who has since been elevated from the High Court to the Court of Appeal, was in a conflict of interest when he heard and decided on the SRC International case.

Najib claimed, among others, that the judge was allegedly aware that Maybank Investment (an entity of Maybank Group) and BinaFikir (another entity of Maybank Group) had advised sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in the matters pertaining to the setting up of SRC International.

Najib alleged that the conflict of interest arose due to Nazlan’s previous role as a general counsel with Maybank.

Initially a subsidiary of 1MDB, SRC became fully owned by the Minister of Finance Incorporated (MoF Inc). 1MDB is also fully owned by MoF Inc.

Among the possible outcomes of the review are that Najib gets a full acquittal, has his appeal reheard by a different Federal Court bench, or that he gets a retrial of the SRC case.

Najib’s review bid also targets the previous panel’s three other decisions.

They are the decisions denying his bid to produce additional evidence to strengthen the allegations against Nazlan, rejecting his bid to postpone the appeal hearing, and denying his application to recuse Tengku Maimun. - MKini

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.