Najib's final appeal for 1MDB-linked conviction: Court denies lead counsel’s request to discharge himself
PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court on Thursday (Aug 18) denied a request by Najib Razak’s lawyer to discharge himself from representing the former prime minister in his final SRC International appeal.
Mr Hisyam Teh Poh Teik has earlier told the five-member bench that he is unable to act for Najib’s final appeal to overturn his 1Malaysia Development Bhd-linked (1MDB) graft conviction, according to the Edge.
“My apology is sincere and from the bottom of my heart. I am unable to act for this case … I was hopeful that the court would grant discretion in my favour because of the scope and depth of the appeal,” he was quoted as saying.
He added that he hoped the judges would review their earlier decision to reject the postponement of the hearing, and if the judges were not inclined to adjourn the case, he would ask to be discharged.
In delivering the judges’ decision, Chief Justice Tengku Maimum Tuan Mat said the court has discretionary authority to allow or deny the discharge application to safeguard and protect the rights of an accused, Malaysiakini reported.
Mr Teh is still the lead counsel, the judge said, according to the Edge.
“We are of the view that counsel has not shown cause to discharge himself. We deny his request to discharge himself,” she said.
Mr Teh said he has no comment.
The chief justice then ordered the prosecution to begin its submission.
The charges against Najib, who served as prime minister from 2009 to 2018, involved the transfer of RM42 million (US$9.4 million) from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB into his personal bank accounts in 2014 and 2015.
He was found guilty on three counts of criminal breach of trust, three counts of money laundering and one count of abuse of power by the High Court in July 2020, and was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million.
The conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal on Dec 8, 2021. Najib later filed a petition of appeal to the Federal Court on Apr 25 this year.
The Federal Court had set aside nine days - Aug 15 to Aug 19 and Aug 23 to Aug 26 - for his appeal. This is Najib’s final bid to overturn the guilty conviction.
On Monday, Najib sought to adduce new evidence in his appeal, but the five-man bench unanimously rejected the application on Tuesday.
Later on Tuesday, the Federal Court also dismissed a request by Najib to adjourn the final appeal hearing.
Najib’s lead counsel had requested for the case to be deferred for three to four months as the defence needed sufficient time to deal with the case.
Chief Justice Tengku Maimun ruled on Tuesday that parties are well aware of the hearing dates and should have taken every effort to be ready.
NAJIB'S MANY HATS ENABLED HIM TO COMMIT OFFENCES: PROSECUTOR
During Thursday's proceedings, lead prosecutor V Sithambaran told the court that Najib was able to commit the offences because of his various roles in the government.
He said the Pekan MP had played the roles of prime minister, finance minister, sole shareholder of Minister of Finance Inc (MOF Inc) and advisor emeritus of SRC International, Malaysiakini reported.
“The criminal intention of the appellant is executed by the appellant wearing different hats as, PM, FM, MOF Inc and adviser emeritus,” he was quoted as saying by the Edge.
Mr Teh, Najib's lead counsel, said he would not be submitting fresh submissions.
According to the Edge, the chief justice replied: “If you choose not to participate then that is your position. The court will not repeat itself.”
The court is adjourned for the day, and the lead prosecutor will resume submission on Friday.
RIGHT TO FAIR HEARING AT STAKE: NAJIB
Speaking to reporters at the court lobby after Thursday's hearing, Najib said his "rights, life, liberty and right to a fair hearing" is at stake, Free Malaysia Today reported.
“As you know, my counsel has indicated he is unwilling to continue because (his team has) had very limited time to prepare … Unfortunately, the court didn’t allow (him to do so)," he said.
The former prime minister said it was “totally unprecedented” for an accused in such a high profile criminal case to be effectively left without legal representation.
“This is a very serious matter. I hope the court will take this into account and take remedial measures at some point in time,” he was quoted as saying.