July 21 decision on QC's bid to represent Najib in final SRC appeal

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 06 Jul 2022

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has fixed July 21 to deliver its decision in an application by UK-based lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw to be admitted as an advocate and solicitor here for him to appear as Datuk Seri Najib Razak's lead counsel in the SRC International appeal.

The date was set by Justice Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid after hearing submissions from parties here on Wednesday (July 6).

Earlier, lawyer Harvinderjit Singh, who represented Laidlaw in the application, informed the court that Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah was unable to attend due to laryngitis and that he is on medical leave until July 10.

ALSO READ: Prosecution opposes QC’s application to defend Najib

In his argument, Harvinderjit insisted that as a Queen's Counsel (QC), Laidlaw has expertise needed to tackle novel issues that will arise from the appeal at the Federal Court, and local lawyers have different competencies from what was needed in the appeal.

To show that Muhammad Shafee himself was completely able to handle the appeal, the prosecution listed cases where he had appeared but Harvinderjit said these were not the same issues that will be decided at the apex court.

"I can assure you the things that will be decided at the Federal Court are not even in the cases they listed," he said.

ALSO READ: Malaysian Bar objects to an application for QC in Najib’s SRC case

Meanwhile, lead prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram rebutted the need for a QC to take part in the appeal.

He said to call in a QC would be "unfair" to local lawyers as there were no complex or novel issues that cannot be argued by Muhammad Shafee or any other local lawyers.

Sithambaram said the appeal was a level playing field and nobody would lose out by not calling in a QC.

"We submit that the threshold has not been met. Since the QC is not a requirement, this application should be dismissed," he added.

ALSO READ: SRC appeal: QC to assist Najib's appeal has unrivalled experience and expertise in law, says Shafee

Senior Federal Counsel Shamsul Bolhassan from the Attorney General's Chambers said that the AGC objected to the application as there was no cogent reason to have the QC's assistance.

"The appellant (Najib) would not be prejudiced without the presence of the QC," he added.

Kuala Lumpur Bar representative lawyer Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar also objected to the application which he described as a crutch mentality that only suggested that "we could not function without them".

Malaysian Bar representative Datuk Bastian Vendargon said that if there were indeed new, serious and complex issues, lawyers in the country could obtain advice from a QC without bringing one into the country.

On May 31, Laidlaw filed a notice of originating motion through Messrs Shafee & Co at the High Court for his admission as a lawyer in Malaysia.

It said that Najib, as the appellant, had sought to engage Laidlaw's professional services to act as lead counsel in the appeal.

"For the purposes of the appeal, the applicant possesses special qualifications, experience and expertise which is not available amongst advocates and solicitors in Malaysia," it stated.

It said that Laidlaw was eligible and qualified to be admitted and enrolled to practise as an advocate and solicitor of the High Court of Malaya pursuant to Section 18(1) of the LPA 1976 to appear as counsel for Najib in the appeal and all other causes or matters related to the appeal.

The QC appointment will be on an ad hoc basis after obtaining admission from the Malaysian court.

Najib's appeal will be heard in August in a 10-day hearing from Aug 15 to 19 and 22 to 26 at the Federal Court.

On July 28, 2020, Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali (now a Court of Appeal judge) convicted and sentenced Najib on seven charges involving criminal breach of trust (CBT), money laundering and abuse of position, involving SRC funds, totalling RM42mil.

He was sentenced to 12 years' jail and a fine of RM210mil.

The conviction and sentence were upheld by the Court of Appeal.

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