The Federal Court, in dismissing Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s application to review his conviction for misappropriating SRC International funds, ruled that the former prime minister was not denied the right to a fair trial in the previous appeal hearings.
Federal Court judge Datuk Vernon Ong Lam Kiat when reading out the panel’s decision noted that it was Najib’s own counsel who had refused to make oral submissions right from the onset of the appeal hearing at the last year.
This was despite the counsel being allowed to do so by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who led the previous apex bench that dismissed the appeal.
Ong was referring to lawyer Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik who did not make oral submissions despite being invited to do so during the SRC appeal hearing.
The panel also ruled that Tengku Maimun had rightly decided not to recuse herself from hearing Najib’s appeal.
The other panelists who agreed to dismiss Najib’s appeal were Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang, Datuk Nordin Hassan and Court of Appeal judge Datuk Abu Bakar Jais.
However, the chairman – Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli was the dissenting the judge.
Najib was represented by Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah while the prosecution team was led by Datuk V Sithambaram.
In the summary judgment, the judges ruled that Najib’s application for a review of the fresh evidence should be rejected as the previous Federal Court decision was made on the correct assessment of the evidence.
They ruled that Najib’s arguments were untenable, and thus, there is no merit for a review of that decision.
On Najib’s application that Tengku Maimun should have granted an adjournment as his lawyers were unprepared to proceed with the appeal hearing, the judges ruled that the law on adjournment is settled, and that the court has absolute discretion whether to allow or reject such applications.
They ruled that the earlier panel had exercised its discretion judiciously, and there was no denial of the applicant’s rights.
On Najib’s application for a review of the discharge of his counsel from representing him, the judges said this too was rejected as there is no merit for a review of that decision.
On the former Umno president’s application for a review of against his conviction and sentence, the judges said the earlier panel had considered 94 grounds of appeal, written submissions and previous decisions of the lower courts which heard Najib’s case.
This, they said, led them to conclude that there was no merit for a review of the previous courts’ decision to convict and sentence Najib.
“The applicant contends that his right has been breached.
“However, here, it is clear that the applicant is the author of his own misfortune. We do not see any reason to review any decision of the earlier panel of the Federal Court,” the judges said.
With the decision, Najib would now have to continue serving his sentence. The former Pekan member of parliament and Umno president has been in jail for 221 days, including today.
Meanwhile, the sole dissenting judge said it was unfair for Najib to pay the highest price for the mistakes done by his counsel.
Abdul Rahman said Hisyam had been denied an opportunity to submit as the latter said he was unprepared to do so after taking on the case at the last minute.
He said the counsel did not submit after informing the panel of judges that he was unprepared to do so.
Rahman said this led to only one party submitting before the earlier panel – which is the Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP).
“The applicant was not heard at all. The applicant is at a great and substantial injustice.
“He was at a disadvantaged state, as he was not represented during the appeal.
“Hence, the conviction against the accused should be quashed as there is no legal representation,” he said.