PUTRAJAYA: There was no conspiracy between two legal firms which represented Najib Razak to obtain an adjournment in the SRC International appeal last year, the Federal Court heard today.
The former prime minister’s lawyer Shafee Abdullah, who runs the legal firm Shafee & Co, said instead, his firm had an “acrimonious” relationship with Zaid Ibrahim, Suflan TH Liew & Partners (ZIST).
“There was never a ploy between the two (law firms) to delay or request a postponement,” Shafee said in his submission before a five-member Federal Court bench hearing Najib’s bid to review his conviction and sentence by another apex court panel last August.
Shafee acted as lead counsel for Najib, and his firm as the former prime minister’s solicitors, during the SRC trial in the High Court and the appeal to the Court of Appeal.
In late July 2022, Najib discharged Shafee and his legal firm and appointed in their place ZIST as solicitors and senior lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik as lead counsel to argue in the final appeal.
Shafee said Hisyam, being a senior lawyer, was humiliated by the Federal Court when his application for adjournment was disallowed and he was forced to sit in court despite having applied to discharge himself as counsel for Najib.
“Where did the Federal Court get the idea that Hisyam could not discharge himself? This is the biggest embarrassment for a senior counsel,” he added.
Shafee said the apex court did this because it did not want Najib to be without a lawyer in court at the hearing.
“The lawyers from ZIST were allowed to walk out when Hisyam told the bench that they were discharging from the case. However, Hisyam remained there because he had no choice,” he added.
He said Najib was only asking for an adjournment of three to four months so that Hisyam and the new legal team could be better prepared to argue the case.
“Leave aside his title and position. Najib only wanted one adjournment,” he added.
Shafee said Najib was denied a fair trial because the court allowed ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram to reply after Hisyam could not make a submission since he was not prepared.
The Federal Court only relied on written submissions made in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, he said.
On Aug 23, a five-member bench chaired by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat maintained Najib’s 12-year jail term and fine of RM210 million or, in default, an additional five years in prison.
Najib is asking for that decision to be set aside and for another Federal Court bench consisting of at least seven judges to re-hear his appeal.
On Aug 16, before the hearing of the appeal proper, Najib saw a motion for leave to introduce additional evidence and disqualify trial judge Nazlan Ghazali thrown out by the bench.
The court then refused his request for an adjournment to enable his new team of lawyers to prepare and argue the merits of his appeal.
Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abdul Rahman Sebli, Justices Vernon Ong, Rhodzariah Bujang, Nordin Hassan and Abu Bakar Jais are hearing the application.
The hearing will continue for three days, beginning Feb 20.