PUTRAJAYA, Oct 4 — A Court of Appeal judge has today recused herself from hearing former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's appeal to reinstate his lawsuit against former attorney general (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas.
Justice Datuk Azizah Nawawi, who chaired a three-member bench, said she decided to recuse herself from hearing the appeal as her husband had previously served under Thomas during the latter's tenure between 2018 and 2020.
Azizah's spouse, Datuk Nik Suhaimi Nik Sulaiman who had held the head of the Attorney General's Chambers' (AGC) appeal and trial division most recently, went into mandatory retirement in February this year.
“My husband was directly under [AG] Tommy Thomas then, on the basis that this is a public interest matter, it is better I recuse myself,” she said.
The other two judges were Datuk Lim Chong Fong and Datuk See Mee Chun.
At the onset of today's hearing, Azizah had made the disclosure to parties in court and asked if there were any objections to the matter.
After a short recess, Najib’s counsel Datuk Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin, after consulting his client, told the court that the former prime minister wished for Justice Azizah to recuse herself from hearing his appeal.
"We thank your ladyship for the disclosure. We would respectfully ask your Ladyship to recuse yourself," he said.
Thomas, who was represented by Alan Adrian Gomez, said that they had no objections for Azizah to continue hearing the matter, but asked on what grounds was the plaintiff asking for a recusal since the test to disqualify a judge is whether there is “real danger of bias” in the case.
Nevertheless, Azizah remained firm in her decision and subsequently recused herself, noting that it was best to have a higher threshold on the issue since it is a public interest case.
Following Azizah's recusal, today's hearing was adjourned to a later date.
On October 26, 2021, Najib sued Thomas and the Malaysian government for the 35 criminal charges against him in four trials, claiming that the then-attorney general had allegedly abused his powers to prosecute him.
The four cases are Najib’s trial involving 25 charges over the misappropriation of RM2.28 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds; a criminal breach of trust case involving RM6.6 billion government funds; a case involving alleged power abuse over amendments to the auditor-general’s 1MDB audit report; and a money-laundering case involving ex-1MDB subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd’s RM27 million funds.
Those four cases do not include Najib’s seven charges involving SRC’s RM42 million, which is the case where he was found guilty of and which resulted in his current imprisonment.
In his suit, Najib is seeking a declaration that Thomas had committed misfeasance in public office, and RM1,941,988 (or RM1.9 million) to compensate for the alleged losses that he had suffered so far, general damages, exemplary damages and aggravated damages.
On September 8, 2022, Najib dropped the Malaysian government as a defendant in the lawsuit, but continued his bid to seek RM1.9 million compensation from Thomas over the alleged wrongful prosecution.
On November 25, 2022, the High Court allowed Thomas’s application to strike out Najib’s lawsuit against him.
On August 11, Najib lost his appeal to disqualify two lawyers from Messrs Tommy Thomas from representing Thomas in the former prime minister’s RM1.9 million lawsuit.