SRC conviction review: Defence never deliberately refuse final appeal hearing participation, needed time to prepare instead, says Shafee

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 21 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s defence team did not choose to deliberately refuse participation in the former prime minister’s SRC International conviction and sentence’s final appeal hearing last year, his lawyer said today.

Telling the Federal Court during the former prime minister’s bid to have the apex court’s decision reviewed, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the truth was in fact then counsel Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik was unable to present his case since the latter was unprepared to do so.

“This is what the Federal Court held against the accused and lawyer but the truth is not that they were deliberated, but the lawyer was unable and needed three to four months in order to be equipped to mount an effective argument, so it’s not refused.

“The way it was mentioned makes either rather recalcitrant. They are just pleading (that they needed) time,” he said at today’s hearing at the Palace of Justice.

Despite the defence’s insistence in August back then, the Federal Court’s five-judge panel led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat unanimously dismissed the defence’s bid for a postponement to be granted.

The five-judge panel had also denied Hisyam’s subsequent request to discharge himself as Najib’s counsel, citing unpreparedness following the failed postponement bid.

Muhammad Shafee also touched on the necessity for a review of Tengku Maimun’s decision over the defence’s recusal application filed against her pursuant to Rule 137 of the Rules of the Federal Court 1995.

He said Tengku Maimun should not have heard and decided the recusal motion herself as she was obviously disqualified because her husband had negative sentiments against Najib.

Back in August 2022, Najib in court documents filed said one ‘Zamani Ibrahim’ had spoken about the fall of the Barisan Nasional government and Najib as prime minister following the 14th general election in May 2018 in a Facebook post which has since been removed.

“Zamani” was quoted as saying he was “happy because Najib had been dethroned” and that “in hindsight, it was Najib & his 1MDB debacles that broke the camel’s back”.

He also wrote, “the siphoning of the sovereign government’s fund into his (Najib) personal account was too much abuse in the eye of the public”.

“She was in conflict by virtue of the position taken by her husband (Datuk Zamani Ibrahim). It doesn’t matter if it happened two, or three years ago.

“There was no evidence he changed his mind. This is a direct attack on Najib via her husband over the matter which is the subject matter of the charges Najib is facing,” he said.

A five-member panel presided over today’s hearing with Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli leading; Federal Court judges Datuk Vernon Ong Lam Kiat, Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang, Datuk Nordin Hassan and Court of Appeal judge Datuk Abu Bakar Jais on the bench.

Following his incarceration, Najib had since sought to challenge the Federal Court’s five-member bench’s August 2022 unanimous decision in affirming his conviction, sentence and fine meted out by the High Court for the misappropriation of RM42 million of SRC International Sdn Bhd fund.

On July 28, 2020, Justice Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali found him guilty of seven charges: three criminal breach of trust charges, three money-laundering charges and one abuse of power charge at the High Court.

Mohd Nazlan, who is now a Court of Appeal judge, had sentenced Najib to 12 years in jail and fined him RM210 million in default five years imprisonment and his decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal on December 8, 2021.

The hearing resumes tomorrow.