KUALA LUMPUR, July 26 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak clarified today that Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah remained one of his lawyers and was only discharged for his final appeal against his SRC International conviction.
In a statement today, Najib confirmed he appointed a new team of lawyers yesterday for his final appeal in the Federal Court against his conviction for misappropriating over RM42 million of SRC International Sdn Bhd’s funds.
Najib confirmed that Hisyam Teh Poh Teik would be his lead counsel in the SRC appeal, while the law firm Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners will be the solicitors for this case.
He explained he decided to appoint a new team of lawyers for his final SRC appeal after the High Court on July 21 rejected a bid by UK lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw to be allowed to practise in Malaysia to represent him in the SRC case.
Najib said he also sought the advice of senior lawyers in Singapore and India before deciding to swap out his team of lawyers for the final SRC appeal.
The former PM expressed his “confidence that the new team that has been assembled will bring different perspectives” to his defence.
He also referred to his June 7 application to the Federal Court to ultimately seek to nullify the entire SRC trial and to push for a retrial, saying that the issue of alleged conflict of interest by the SRC trial judge was a “serious” issue both for the judge and the litigants.
Najib said he would not want to comment on this issue as the application is now pending before the Federal Court.
As for all the other criminal trials that Najib is currently facing in local courts, Najib confirmed that Shafee and the latter’s law firm Shafee & Co will continue to be his lawyers for those cases.
He also expressed his “support and appreciation to his entire legal team for their continuing commitment and effort in ensuring he is given a fair trial”.
Najib also said it was “unfair” for the media to conclude or report that Shafee & Co had been “evicted” or “ditched”.
“He joins many others in their confidence that the Malaysian legal system and legal processes will prove his innocence and provide the justice, that all Malaysians deserve in law,” the statement concluded.
Up until yesterday, Shafee had been representing Najib in all stages of the SRC case, including the trial at the High Court and the appeal at the Court of Appeal.
After being found guilty at the High Court in July 2020 and losing his appeal at the Court of Appeal in December 2021, Najib had on December 8, 2021 filed his final appeal in the SRC case at the Federal Court.
The abrupt change in Najib's legal team comes exactly three weeks before August 15, which is when the Federal Court was scheduled to begin hearing his final appeal against his conviction in the SRC case.
As early as April 29, the Federal Court had already notified both Najib's lawyers and the prosecution that it would be hearing the SRC appeal over 10 days from August 15 to August 19, and from August 22 to August 26.
Today, Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners informed the Federal Court that it intends to seek for the postponement of both the SRC appeal hearing (which was scheduled to begin August 15) and Najib's June 7 application for the SRC trial to be nullified (which was scheduled for case management on July 29).
The law firm said that this was due to a completely new legal team taking over Najib's SRC case, and asked the Federal Court for an urgent case management on this case.
The new legal team also indicated that Najib had instructed them to withdraw a pending appeal against the dismissal of Laidlaw's application.
For criminal appeals at the Federal Court, the highest court in Malaysia would typically hear the appeal, before then deciding on whether to uphold the lower courts' decision to convict or acquit an accused person.
Following Najib's announcement this afternoon, this means that Shafee and his law firm are still representing the former Umno president in his two ongoing trials at the High Court over the misappropriation of more than RM2 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds, and over his alleged abuse of power in relation to amendments to the auditor-general's audit report on 1MDB.
Najib also faces two other ongoing trials which have yet to start, namely his joint trial with former Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah for alleged criminal breach of trust involving RM6.6 billion of government funds, and a trial involving three money-laundering charges over RM27 million of SRC funds.