Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, the lead defence counsel in former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s SRC International Sdn Bhd graft trial, clarified today that Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden and Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin were not appearing for Najib’s defence in his SRC corruption trial.
He said that they had been retained for other matters but he did not know what these included as it was privileged information.
“I think they are engaged on the basis of certain things they need to do,” he said after he was asked to respond to a media report purporting that both “walked out” on Najib’s defence team and were no longer actively involved in the trial.
“So I am sure they are still doing something but for appearance purposes, maybe not,” he told Malay Mail at the High Court.
According to Shafee, Yusof and Kamarul were initially brought on to assist the defence in striking out the seven charges on the grounds that they were defective and constitute an abuse of the court process.
On April 29, the High Court dismissed Najib’s application to strike out the seven charges and Najib subsequently filed an appeal on the High Court’s decision to the Court of Appeal.
On July 23, Najib withdrew his appeal as the trial at the High Court had already gone to an advanced stage.
Both Yusof and Kamarul were notably absent from Najib’s court proceeding for several weeks since mid-July.
Their absence from the defence team was first raised when Najib’s lawyers were expected to continue with the cross-examination of the prosecution’s 54th witness, former AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu on July 24.
High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali had asked the defence if Yusof or Kamarul could take over the cross-examination after both of Najib’s main lawyers Shafee and Harvinderjit Singh were unavailable.
This prompted another defence lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed to inform the court that he had not received instructions over their availability or about them conducting the cross-examination.
A member of the legal team told The Malaysian Insight that the lawyers who left remained engaged in the technical aspects of the case until final submission.
Yusof and Kamarul have not responded to requests for comment.
Related story: Aug 8, Senior Lawyers Quit Najib’s Defence Team