KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 — Lawyer Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik today indicated he might file a defamation lawsuit against Malaysian Bar president Karen Cheah Yee Lynn over her remarks about him in relation to Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s SRC International appeal.
In a statement provided to Malay Mail, Teh said Cheah “will be hearing from me as well”.
“Her press release of August 19, 2022 has attacked me and my legal team in the strongest of terms, a stance that is both mischievous and highly defamatory.
“She will have to justify her condemnation in a court of law,” Teh said in the statement.
Teh’s statement comes just a day after it was reported that Najib’s former legal team for the SRC case had sent a legal letter to demand for an apology from Cheah.
Previously, lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and his law firm Shafee & Co had represented Najib since July 2018 when he was charged over the misappropriation of RM42 million of SRC International Sdn Bhd’s funds and had also been his lawyer throughout his trial at the High Court and at his appeal at the Court of Appeal.
Shafee’s law firm initially prepared for Najib’s final appeal for the SRC case at the Federal Court, but he had on July 25 discharged Shafee and his law firm.
Najib instead on July 26 officially hired former law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s law firm Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (ZIST) as his lawyers for the SRC case.
The lawyers officially on record for Najib’s legal team in the final SRC appeal then became ZIST’s Liew Teck Huat and Rueben Mathiavaranam as the solicitors and Hisyam, who is from his own law firm Hisyam Teh.
The new team of lawyers wanted the Federal Court to postpone the SRC appeal hearing due to the change of the entire legal team and as they wanted more time to prepare for the case.
But after the Federal Court on August 16 refused to allow Najib’s legal team’s request to postpone the hearing of the final SRC appeal which had already been scheduled four months ago, Najib on August 19 abruptly discharged ZIST from acting as his solicitors.
On August 18, the Federal Court had also decided against allowing Hisyam to discharge himself as Najib’s counsel and he remained on record as the lawyer for Najib in the final SRC appeal.
After hearing the prosecution’s oral submissions and with Hisyam choosing to rely on Shafee’s written submissions at the Court of Appeal stage without adding on further submissions, the Federal Court on August 23 upheld Najib’s conviction and jail sentence and RM210 million fine in the SRC case.
On August 19, Cheah had on behalf of the Malaysian Bar issued a press statement, which touched on Najib’s final SRC appeal hearing and had suggested that his lawyers had allegedly conducted themselves unprofessionally in handling the case and suggested they may have to face disciplinary action.
Among other things, Cheah had highlighted that the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978 requires new lawyers who take over a case to only accept the case if they are reasonably certain of being able to appear on the hearing dates fixed by the court and to make all efforts to be ready for trial on the day fixed.
Yesterday, it was reported that ZIST had on August 26 issued a letter of demand to Cheah.
In the letter issued on behalf of Zaid, Liew and Rueben, the law firm had referred to Cheah’s August 19 statement and said the statements were defamatory against the three lawyers — who were formerly acting for Najib in the SRC case.
The legal letter had also demanded that Cheah publish a full and unequivocal retraction and apology, and that she give an undertaking to not to repeat the same or similar words, and to pay compensation to them.
The legal letter by the law firm had given Cheah seven days to respond and said that it would otherwise initiate legal proceedings against her.