The Malaysian Bar has objected to an application for Queen’s Counsel Jonathan Laidlaw to represent Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in the former premier’s final appeal involving the misappropriation of RM42mil belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd.
Its secretary B Anand Raj, in an affidavit filed on Monday (June 28), said Najib’s current lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah possessed more experience and qualifications compared with the British lawyer.
He also said that there were over 20,000 other experienced lawyers in Malaysia for the former prime minister to choose from.
Anand said Muhammad Shafee himself possessed extensive knowledge and vast experience as he had appeared and argued numerous cases involving criminal legal provisions and charges related to the Pekan MP’s appeal.
“The fact that Muhammad Shafee and his legal team have been involved in the subject case and are familiar with the charges and the statutory provisions involved from inception, it is the considered view of the Malaysian Bar that Muhammad Shafee himself possesses greater experience and qualifications in respect of the issues pending in the appeal, more so than the applicant (Laidlaw),” he said.
Anand pointed out that it was only in the early years after Malaysia attained independence from the UK in 1957 when there was a limited number of local lawyers that there was some need for assistance from the QC and other foreign experts.
“Today, in 2022, 65 years post-independence, the Malaysian Bar has grown in strength, quantitatively and qualitatively. We have 21,659 advocates and solicitors who are in possession of a valid annual and practicing certificate as of June 27, 2022.
‘Bamboo-zling’ the competition
“There are many advocates and solicitors with subject matter expertise and experience in criminal defence litigation up to the highest appellate tiers. A perusal of the applicant’s (Laidlaw) qualifications and experience as set out in the said affidavit (by Muhammad Shafee) reveals that he is an eminent QC in the UK and has a varied and extensive experience in various jurisdictions.
“He does not, however, have the special qualifications or experience in the Malaysian legal system, the Malaysian criminal system and in other related jurisprudence required for the appeal,” Anand said.
He added that Laidlaw had not demonstrated any familiarity with Malaysia’s evolving local statutes, practices and procedures since it gained independence.
The application for a QC will be heard at the High Court here on July 6 before Justice Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid.
On Jan 25, the legal firm Messrs Shafee & Co submitted a letter to the Secretariat of Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat on Najib’s intention to appoint a QC to assist him on complex issues and legal questions in the appeal of the SRC case in the Federal Court.
The Federal Court has set 10 days in August to hear Najib’s appeal against his conviction and jail sentence for misappropriation of the company’s funds.
On Dec 8, 2021, the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and 12-year prison sentence as well as a RM210 million fine imposed against Najib for misappropriating RM42 million in SRC funds.
Justice Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, who presided with fellow judges Justices Has Zanah Mehat and Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera, unanimously dismissed Najib’s appeal against the High Court’s decision on July 28, 2020.
The Federal Court is Najib’s final avenue of appeal against his conviction and sentence.