PUTRAJAYA: Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has failed in his final bid to stay his appeal in the SRC International Sdn Bhd trial at the Federal Court.
A five-member panel of judges dismissed an oral application made by his lead counsel, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, who was seeking a three- to four-month adjournment.
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Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who chaired the panel, said the change in law firms at the eleventh hour by the Pekan MP was done with full knowledge of the hearing dates (Aug 15-26) since April.
Najib had discharged Messrs Shafee & Co on July 25 and subsequently engaged Messrs Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (ZIST).
"This is his right to do so but he cannot, after having made that decision, turn around and say that his new lawyers are not ready to proceed with the hearing of the appeals. The new lawyers too, having accepted the brief, are not entitled to say they need more time to prepare knowing fully well that the dates had been fixed well in advance," the Chief Justice said here on Tuesday.
In this regard, the panel referred to Rule 6(a) of the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978.
The code stipulates that "an advocate and solicitor shall not accept any brief unless he is reasonably certain of being able to appear and represent the client on the required day".
The court was also of the opinion that the request for adjournment was not supported by cogent nor reasonable grounds and that considerable public funds would be wasted had the adjournment been allowed.
"Article 8 of the Federal Constitution and the Rule of Law demand that the appellant be treated just like any other accused.
"As such, we state again that while the appellant is entitled to his right to change his counsel, he is not entitled to make this choice at the expense of the court, the prosecution or the entire justice system," said Chief Justice Tengku Maimun.
Earlier, Hisyam made a passionate plea to stay the hearing of the appeal proper, citing time constraints as Najib had changed his line-up of defence lawyers last month.
The court also ordered for the hearing of the main appeal to begin this Thursday (Aug 18).
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.