Dissenting judge: Clear disadvantage in case after lead counsel left defence

PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Seri Najib Razak was “clearly disadvantaged” when he had no legal representation following his lead counsel’s refusal to participate in the final appeal of his SRC International case, says a dissenting judge.

Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Abdul Rahman Sebli, who gave the dissenting judgment in a 4-1 majority decision yesterday, said the former prime minister could not be said to have legal representation when the counsel of his choice, Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, refused to represent him any further during the final appeal.

Justice Abdul Rahman said both the prosecution and the defence should be given the opportunities to be heard by the court but during the appeal, the prosecution was heard for two full days while Najib was not heard at all.

During the final appeal at the Federal Court last August, Hisyam had sought an adjournment of the proceedings for three to four months as he had only taken over the case several weeks earlier.

Najib had then discharged Messrs Shafee & Co and engaged Messrs Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (Zist) where Hisyam was appointed as the lead counsel.

The Federal Court’s five-judge panel chaired by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat gave a stern “no” to the request.

This resulted in Hisyam discharging himself as Najib’s counsel, as he said he was unprepared to carry on due to time constraints.

The panel, however, maintained that Hisyam remained “on the record” as counsel and Hisyam refused to submit on the merits of the main appeal.

On this, Justice Abdul Rahman said the previous panel was wrong when it prevented Hisyam from discharging himself.

He said it was unfair that Najib was “paying the highest price” for the mistakes done by his counsel.

The judge said Najib’s statement from the dock, after the Federal Court affirmed his conviction and sentence meted out by the High Court, was a testament of his disappointment over what had transpired.

“The applicant’s only interest is to see his lawyer act for him in his best interest, nothing more and nothing less. For all the aforesaid reasons, I allow the application,” Justice Abdul Rahman added.

Najib’s application for the review, however, was dismissed by the majority decision by Federal Court judges Justices Vernon Ong, Rhodzariah Bujang, Nordin Hassan and Court of Appeal judge Justice Abu Bakar Jais.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court had in August last year convicted and sentenced Najib to a 12-year jail and ordered him to pay a RM210mil fine after finding him guilty of seven charges involving SRC International, which included one charge of abuse of power involving Retirement Fund (Incorporated)’s (KWAP) RM4bil loans to SRC, three counts of criminal breach of trust involving RM42mil and three counts of money laundering involving RM27mil in SRC.

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