KUALA LUMPUR: Law firm Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (ZIST) will not abandon its client Datuk Seri Najib Razak, says firm partner and lawyer Datuk Zaid Ibrahim (pic).
Zaid denied recent news reports that the firm would discharge itself if it was not given enough time to prepare for Najib's final SRC International Sdn Bhd appeal at the Federal Court.
"I am surprised that a statement made in chambers to the Deputy Registrar found its way into the media almost instantaneously after the case management hearing," he said, adding that the reports were 'neither correct nor accurate'.
Zaid said his firm, ZIST, did not make any statement during the case management that the firm would be discharging itself as solicitors.
"We do not abandon our clients. Any media report stating the contrary is mischievous and regrettable," he said in a statement posted on his Facebook on Friday (Aug 12).
Zaid said his firm agreed to take on the case as Najib has legitimate grievances with regard to his conviction, particularly on matters relating to rule of law, the law relating to bias, and conflict of interests.
"It is the sacred duty of any advocate to represent an accused person with such grievances.
"In doing so, I am not prejudging the case, as any respectable lawyer will attest.
"Passing judgment is the domain of the courts. As lawyers, our duty is to present the client’s case to the best of our ability.
"We expect our courts to uphold time-honoured legal principles and that the rule of law will prevail," he added.
Zaid also addressed a statement made by Sepang MP Mohamed Hanipa Maidin on Thursday (Aug 11) on Najib's case.
He said Hanipa's statement, in which the latter insinuated lawyers who take on briefs at the last minute were motivated by money, was grossly unfair.
"I want to state categorically that throughout my career as lawyer and politician, I have never been motivated by money or position. Justice is what matters to me.
"In any event, it is a preposterous notion that there is never a justification for a last-minute change of lawyers," he said.
In Najib's case, Zaid said there was a genuine need for a change of perspective and a reset of arguments in the former premier's defence.
Zaid also hit back at criticism that his firm's appointment was purely an attempt to delay the appeal.
"In answer to that, I ask that my critics compare this case to other high-profile cases that have come up before the courts.
"There is no doubt that this case has taken much less time to reach its present stage than most, if not all, of such cases.
"My pompous critics will know whose cases I am referring to. In any event, this is the first time Najib has changed lawyers in this matter," he added.
Zaid said he believed ZIST would bring a fresh perspective to the case.
"On our advice, Najib has abandoned certain propositions previously put forward.
"We are purely focused on constitutional principles, the rule of law, principles of natural justice and the specific legal and factual issues in the application for retrial and the appeal proper.
"We are prepared to proceed with the motion for retrial when it comes up for hearing on Monday (Aug 15)," he said.
He reiterated that his firm placed itself on the record as solicitors for the Pekan MP.
"We will continue to act for him (Najib) for so long as we have his confidence," Zaid added.
On Aug 10, news broke that there was possibility for Najib to change his line-up of defence lawyers in the SRC International appeal, owing to time constraints to prepare for the appeal.
On July 25, Najib had discharged Messrs Shafee & Co and took on ZIST to represent him in his final appeal at the apex court.
The Federal Court was informed in a letter dated July 26 from ZIST that senior lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik of Messrs Hisyam Teh will be leading the appeal while Liew Teck Huat and Rueben Mathiaravanam, both from ZIST, will be co-counsels.
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.
Najib's final appeal at the Federal Court will be heard between Aug 15 - Aug 19 and Aug 23 - Aug 26.