Court dismisses application by Queen's Counsel to represent Najib in SRC appeal

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has rejected an application by British lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw to be admitted as an advocate and solicitor here, effectively dashing former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's bid to have the Queen's Counsel (QC) represent him in his SRC International Sdn Bhd appeal at the Federal Court.

In his brief decision, Justice Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid said there were no complex issues in the appeal that would require the QC's participation.

"Local advocates and solicitors are well capable of handling such cases at all tiers of the courts in Malaysia.

"This does not justify the need to have the applicant (Laidlaw) to be admitted on an ad hoc basis for the (SRC) appeal before the Federal Court," he said in a Zoom proceeding here on Thursday (July 21).

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The judge said the applicant had not shown himself as one who possesses special qualifications or experience of a nature not available among advocates and solicitors in Malaysia.

"Furthermore, I find there is no... evidence to suggest that the applicant has knowledge or much experience in the local law compared to local advocates and solicitors here," he added.

Justice Ahmad Kamal said while it was undeniable that the applicant was deemed as "the star silk in financial crimes" but that alone would not suffice as having the special skills, qualifications and knowledge on the application of local laws. (A "silk lawyer" is a colloquial term for a Queen's Counsel in England.)

"It is my considered judgment that the applicant has failed to satisfy me under Section 18(1) of the Legal Profession Act (LPA) 1976.

"As such, the originating motion is hereby dismissed," he said.

ALSO READ: Queen's Counsel Jonathan Laidlaw applies to appear as Najib's lawyer in SRC appeal

The court made no order as to costs.

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 in the SRC appeal, had sought to engage Laidlaw's professional services to act as lead counsel in the appeal.

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.

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 in December.

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