A brief shouting match between two senior lawyers stalled the IRB suit to recover RM1.69 billion in income tax arrears from Najib after defence lawyers challenged the prosecution’s appointment of prominent tax lawyer DP Naban.
Datuk Seri Najib Razak is challenging the legality of the appointment of Datuk DP Naban as a counsel for the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) in relation to a suit to recover RM1.69 billion unpaid tax from the former prime minister.
Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who is representing Najib, said he would be challenging Naban’s appointment and qualification because the legal firm he (Naban) came from could also be in conflict of interest.
“The issue of disqualification would also be raised because we’ve just been informed that my learned friend’s firm is acting in conflict as it has represented cases against my client and against IRB,” he told High Court Judge Datuk Ahmad Bache yesterday.
The lawyer cited another similar case involving senior deputy public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, where a seven-member Federal Court bench led by Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat had ruled on Aug 7 that an appointment letter must be shown to the court and the opposing legal team.
Meanwhile, Naban said he was prepared to show his appointment letter made under Section 24 (3) of the Government Proceedings Act 1956 to the court only.
“I’ve never asked any of my learned colleagues for their letter of appointment. I have no right to ask for his (Shafee) letter of appointment. Similarly, he does not have to ask for my appointment letter because the government is entitled to appoint me. I cannot understand the basis of all this,” he said.
Judge Ahmad set Nov 29 for case management.
Earlier, IRB Senior Federal Counsel Abu Tariq Jamaluddin introduced to the court that Naban will be a member of the IRB legal team.
On Aug 8, Najib filed an application for a stay of proceedings of IRB’s suit seeking him to pay RM1.69 billion in income tax, pending an appeal on the tax assessment to IRB.
However, the IRB, in its supporting affidavit, said that Najib still has to pay the total amount of RM1.69 billion even if he has filed an appeal against the tax assessment.
IRB Monitoring Unit assistant director Hisyamuddin Mohd Hassan, in his supporting affidavit, said that according to Section 103 of the Income Tax Act 1967, all the assessed tax shall be due and payable on the day the notice of assessment is served, whether or not the person appeals against the assessment.
On June 25, the government through IRB filed the suit against Najib seeking him to pay RM1.69 billion in unpaid tax with interest at five per cent a year from the date of judgment, as well as cost and other relief deemed fit by the court.