GEORGE TOWN: A lawyer today asked why former prime minister Najib Razak had chosen to hire top lawyers from the US to face possible criminal charges when there are capable criminal lawyers in the country.
RSN Rayer, who is also Jelutong MP, said although Najib had the right to hire foreign lawyers, the Bar Council should vet Najib’s application to hire the US lawyers carefully as it might be a tactic to delay any possible trial.
Foreign lawyers who intend to appear in local courts require a special licence from the Bar. A local law firm must apply for the licence on behalf of the foreign lawyer, according to the Legal Profession (Amendment) Act 2012.
Najib has reportedly engaged the services of former US attorney-general John Ashcroft. Reuters also reported that he had enlisted the services of top US lawyers David Boies and Matthew Schwartz.
“There is absolutely no necessity for Najib to engage a team of foreign lawyers from the US when the Bar of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak has many experienced senior criminal lawyers,” Rayer said.
“Lawyers such as Shafee Abdullah, N Sivananthan, Tan Hock Chuan, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik and many others in the past defended individuals charged with serious offences, including death penalty offences.
“In Najib’s case, he is just facing the possibility of money laundering and corruption charges related to 1MDB, which are not death penalty cases,” Rayer told FMT.
He said any trial could be delayed due to “ad hoc applications” by foreign lawyers.
“I urge the Bar to be extremely vigilant and cautious in considering any ad hoc applications made by any foreign lawyer intending to defend Najib.
“It might open the floodgates to an influx of foreign lawyers, which the Bar has been resisting very strongly all this time.”
Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor were represented by lawyers Harpal Singh Grewal and M Athimulan during the height of the police searches at their residences last month. The lawyers were let go before Najib was questioned by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
The former head of prosecution at the Attorney-General’s Chambers Yusof Zainal Abideen and senior criminal lawyer M Puravalen had then represented Najib and Rosmah respectively. However, the two lawyers subsequently called it quits.
Rosmah will now be represented by local lawyers K Kumaraendran and Geethan Ram Vincent, reports say.
Law enforcement agencies, including the MACC, have stepped up investigations into the couple over money laundering, among others.
MACC is updating its probe into the RM42 million from former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International, said to have been deposited into Najib’s private bank account.