Another day of drama

PUTRAJAYA: The fourth day of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s final appeal at the Federal Court started with more drama when the former prime minister dropped Messrs Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (ZIST) as his counsel.

The surprise announcement in Najib’s appeal in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case came at the outset of the proceedings yesterday when his lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik (pic) stood up to inform the apex court that ZIST had been let go.

“The solicitors have been discharged by the appellant (Najib),” he said here yesterday, referring to ZIST.

Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who chaired a five-judge panel, merely responded with “I see” before ordering for the proceedings to begin.

The discharge came just weeks after Najib’s shock move last month to replace Messrs Shafee & Co as his solicitors, which had worked with him during his trials at the High Court and the Court of Appeal. ZIST was engaged by Najib on July 21.

Just days before the appeal hearing began on Monday, ZIST partner and lawyer Datuk Zaid Ibrahim had pledged that the firm would not abandon the Pekan MP for as long as Najib had confidence in them.

However, the courtroom showed a stark contrast yesterday when the bar area reserved for defence lawyers was empty with the exception of Hisyam and two other lawyers from his firm.

Hisyam remained on the court records as the counsel for Najib despite his statement to the media that Najib, in essence, has no legal representation.

In yesterday’s proceedings, the CJ had at least twice reminded Hisyam that he was still Najib’s counsel.

Nonetheless, the senior lawyer still refused to make any submissions for Najib in the appeal.

As the prosecution wrapped up its submission, Hisyam made an application to adjourn the hearing next Tuesday to Thursday, but it was rejected by the court.

He later asked to be excused from attending the hearing on Tuesday as he had another matter to attend to. This was also rejected by the bench.

He was asked again by the CJ on whether he would be making his submissions.

“Don’t tell us you are not prepared to submit at all, not even on one of the 94 grounds of the appeal?” she said.

The CJ said if the defence was not ready to put in a written submission, it could always make oral submissions and the defence had the weekend and Monday to prepare.

“I will not be making any submissions,” Hisyam responded.

The CJ then said it was within Hisyam’s right to do so.

“It’s your right. It’s your liberty,” she said.

When approached by reporters outside of the courtroom, Hisyam was adamant that he would not be making any submissions next week.

“The position will be the same on Tuesday, that we are not making any submission,” Hisyam said.

A check on the e-filing system shows that the corruption trial of Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will take place at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Monday and Tuesday. Hisyam is Ahmad Zahid’s lead counsel in the trial.

The hearing resumes next Tuesday. The previous hearing date of Aug 22 has been vacated by the court during the final case management.

On July 28, 2020, Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali (now a Court of Appeal judge) convicted and sentenced Najib on seven charges involving criminal breach of trust (CBT), money laundering and abuse of position, involving SRC funds totalling RM42mil.

He was sentenced to 12 years’ jail and a fine of RM210mil.

The conviction and sentence were upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Other judges on the bench are Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Federal Court judges Justices Nallini Pathmanathan, Mary Lim Thiam Suan, and Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah.