Malaysia’s Federal Court rejects Najib’s bid to postpone SRC international appeal hearing
Earlier in the day, the court also unanimously rejected Najib Razak’s bid to introduce new evidence in the graft case linked to 1MDB.
PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia’s Federal Court has unanimously dismissed a request by former prime minister Najib Razak to adjourn the hearing of his final appeal against a guilty verdict in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case.
Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat ruled on Tuesday (Aug 16) that parties are well aware of the hearing dates and should have taken every effort to be ready, Malaysiakini reported.
She ruled that the hearing will start this Thursday, according to the Edge.
Earlier on Tuesday, Najib’s lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik requested for the case to be deferred for three to four months, after the chief justice dismissed the defence’s application to adduce new evidence.
The Edge quoted the lead counsel as saying that the defence needed sufficient time to deal with the case. He said that he was not purposely delaying the appeal.
"There are 179 bundles of documents. This is no ordinary case, I say in my practice for four-and-a-half decades and there are strong points of law. Serious arguments will be made,” he said.
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, a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Bhd into his personal bank accounts in 2014 and 2015.
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 his final bid to overturn the guilty conviction.
About two weeks before the hearing was scheduled to start, Najib discharged his lead defence lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah from his appeal.
The court was informed on Jul 26 that Mr Teh from Messrs Hisyam Teh will be the main counsel leading the appeal, while lawyers from Messrs Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners will be co-counsels.
In her grounds of judgment on Tuesday, Chief Justice Tengku Maimun said Najib, having been well aware of the hearing dates, chose to discharge his former solicitors and appoint a new team.
“This is his right to do so but he cannot, after having made that decision, turn around and say that his new lawyers are not ready to proceed with the hearing of the appeals.
“The new lawyers too, having accepted the brief, are not entitled to say they need more time to prepare knowing fully well that the dates had been fixed well in advance,” she said.
The chief justice added that considerable public funds would be wasted if granting an adjournment was an easier option.
“Article 8 of the Federal Constitution and the rule of law demand that the appellant be treated just like any other accused.
“As such, we state again that while the appellant is entitled to his right to change his counsel, he is not entitled to make this choice at the expense of the court, the prosecution or the entire justice system,” she noted.
NAJIB’S BID TO ADDUCE NEW EVIDENCE REJECTED
On Monday, Najib’s legal team sought to adduce new evidence related to Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, who delivered the guilty verdict against him at the High Court in July 2020.
Judge Mohd Nazlan is now a Court of Appeal judge.
In a report by the Star, Mr Teh said the judge had conflicted himself with his roles in Maybank’s engagement in the formation of SRC, Maybank’s loan of RM140 million to Putra Perdana Development Bhd where SRC was the beneficiary, and Maybank’s RM4.17 billion loan to 1MDB.
However, the prosecution said the judge’s previous role with Maybank was publicly known, and so it was preposterous to claim that it was a fact "recently discovered" or "deliberately suppressed".
The defence’s application was dismissed by the Federal Court on Tuesday.
According to the Star, Chief Justice Tengku Maimun said the applicant had failed to state exactly what the proposed additional evidence would prove.
“To our mind, there is no miscarriage of justice,” she was quoted as saying.
The five-man panel's decision is unanimous.
Speaking to reporters later at the court lobby, Najib said he was “shocked and bitterly disappointed” with the judges' decision on his request to admit additional evidence.
“I hope in the final appeal, we will be able to show the truth of the matter,” he said.
His lead counsel, Mr Teh, said the defence has to make a decision on the next course of action by Thursday.
“We will give this very serious thought and consideration because this is the final lap of the main appeal,” he said.