PUTRAJAYA: Najib Razak’s SRC International corruption appeal took a dramatic turn today when lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik informed the Federal Court that he had no alternative but to discharge himself from the case.
This came after a fresh application made this morning by the former prime minister’s newly-appointed legal team to postpone the hearing of the appeal was rejected by the apex court.
Hisyam said he could not prepare the case in time and apologised to the court.
The court has stood the matter down to consider whether to allow the discharge.
Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said “as (lead) counsel you should not walk away and leave your client (Najib) unrepresented”.
“The fact that SG (Solicitor-General Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh) is here for the prosecution and he has no objection does not change anything.
“You still need our permission if you want to discharge,” she said.
She said the court was confident of the ability of Hisyam and his co-counsel to conduct the appeal.
Tengku Maimun heads a five-member Federal Court bench which also comprises Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and judges Nallini Pathmanathan, Mary Lim and Mohamad Zabidin Diah.
A previous application to adjourn the appeal hearing by “three to four months” made by Hisyam after the disposal of Najib’s application to adduce new evidence was rejected by the court on Tuesday.
Hisyam later told the press of his “terrible disappointment” at the apex court’s stance, adding that his request for a postponement was “fair and reasonable” given the circumstances.
Two previous requests to adjourn the hearing, made by letter dated July 26 and at case management three days later, were also unsuccessful.
The former prime minister’s current solicitors, Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners, took over conduct of the appeal on July 25.
Najib was previously represented by Shafee & Co, with senior lawyer Shafee Abdullah as lead counsel.
Faced with seven charges of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust over SRC funds amounting to RM42 million, Najib’s trial saw 86 witnesses testify over 76 hearing days.
On July 28, 2020, he was convicted on all the charges and sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine of RM210 million, the grounds for which were set out by trial judge Nazlan Ghazali in a massive 500 plus-page written judgment.
If upheld, Najib will be made to immediately serve his jail sentence and will automatically lose his parliamentary seat in Pekan.
The conviction and sentence were upheld by the Court of Appeal on Dec 8 last year.
Najib’s legal team also includes lawyers Zaid Ibrahim, Liew Teck Huat and Ruben Mathiavarnam.
Lawyer V Sithambaram, who is prosecuting under a special licence issued by the attorney-general, is assisted by Donald Joseph Franklin, Sulaiman Kho Kheng Fuei and Mohd Ashrof Adrin Kamarul.
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