Decision on QC in two weeks

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has fixed July 21 to deliver its decision on 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 yesterday.

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 from July 4-10.

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

To show that Muhammad Shafee himself was completely able to handle the appeal, the prosecution listed a vast list of cases where Muhammad Shafee had appeared in, but Harvinderjit said these are 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.

Lead prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram rebutted the need for a QC to partake in the appeal.

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

Sithambaram said the appeal is a fair playing field and nobody will 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,” Sithambaram added.

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

“The appellant (Najib) will 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 suggests that “we could not function without them”.

Malaysian Bar representative Datuk Bastian Vendargon said if there are indeed new, serious and complex issues, lawyers in the country could obtain advice from the QC without bringing the QC 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 Najib, as the appellant, has 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 among advocates and solicitors in Malaysia,” it stated.

It said Laidlaw is 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 Legal Profession Act 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 admission from the Malaysian court is obtained.

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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