PUTRAJAYA: After a day of quiet, there was much drama again as the hearing of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s appeal in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case started in earnest at the Federal Court.
The lead defence counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik started the day’s drama by asking to discharge himself from the case.
Then, in an unusual turn of events, the appeal kicked off with the prosecution making its submission first.
Conventionally, the defence team would take the lead with submissions but this right was waived by Hisyam, who told the five-member panel chaired by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat that he “had nothing to say”.
Hisyam’s “silence” came after the apex court denied his request to discharge himself.
The senior lawyer made the oral application at the outset of the proceedings after his final plea to adjourn the matter again fell on deaf ears.
The CJ reminded Hisyam that he was a key actor to ensure the court machinery works and the court had authority to protect its processes.
CJ: And you are still leaving your client unrepresented. Do you recognise that?
Hisyam: Yes. I’ll be honest, I am not prepared.
The panel retreated for deliberation for over an hour and came back to reject Hisyam’s application.
“We are of the unanimous view that in the present factual matrix, counsel (Hisyam) has failed to disclose adequate cause (to discharge).
“Therefore, the application is refused and counsel remains on record,” the top judge said.
Hisyam, however, told the court that he had no intention to submit on the 94 grounds of appeal filed by Najib’s previous counsel.
He said he would adopt the defence’s submissions at the Court of Appeal over the findings of the High Court.
The CJ then ordered lead prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram to begin submissions.
In his submissions, Sithambaram said Najib was able to commit the seven offences he was found guilty of in the case due to his various roles in the government – as prime minister, finance minister, Minister of Finance Inc. (MOF Inc.), and adviser emeritus of SRC.
“The criminal intention of the appellant is executed by the appellant wearing different hats.
“It is the mens rea (criminal intent) of the appellant in executing the criminal intent in various capacities that enabled him to commit the seven offences charged,” he said.
On July 28, 2020, the High Court convicted and sentenced Najib on seven charges of 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.
The hearing continues before the panel today.
Other judges on the bench are Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Federal Court judges Justices Nallini Pathmanathan, Mary Lim Thiam Suan, and Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah.