Shafee accused Zaid’s law firm of incompetence in handling Najib’s SRC appeal

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Shafee argued that Najib did not get a fair trial for the appeal due to the miscalculated strategy by his newly-appointed counsels at that time.

Senior lawyer Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim has declined to comment when asked to respond to what had transpired at the Federal Court today.

Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah today lambasted Zaid’s firm for their alleged incompetency in handling Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s appeal in SRC International Bhd case at the Federal Court last year.

Zaid when contacted, however, said it was not proper for him to respond to Shafee’s statement.

On July 26, last year, Najib replaced his long-time counsel (Shafee) with Zist to handle his final appeal at the Apex Court.

Shafee had all this while led Najib’s defence team in the SRC International case right from the time the former Umno president was charged in 2020.

Shafee argued that Najib did not get a fair trial for the appeal due to the miscalculated strategy by his newly-appointed counsels at that time.

He said this in his submissions in Najib’s application to review his conviction and sentence in the SRC International Bhd case.

Shafee claimed Najib was allegedly being punished for the actions of Zist in seeking more time to better prepare his final defence.

According to Shafee, Najib’s legal fiasco during the final appeal began after the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed his application to have Queen’s Counsel Jonathan Laidlaw on July 21 and 22.

Laidlaw is a UK-based lawyer who sought to be admitted ad hoc in the High Court of Malaya for him to be able to represent Najib in the Federal Court appeal.

In his written submission, Shafee said it was after this event that Najib was then approached and advised by Zaid, who is a partner at Zist and a former minister in Najib’s Cabinet during Najib’s premiership.

Describing his relationship with Zist as acrimonious, Shafee said the law firm failed to tell Najib the truth by acting with “blind confidence” that the court would grant them an adjournment of the case.

“To begin with, Zist has never done criminal law and its partner lawyer Niru Pillai from Singapore was about to be disciplined by the Singaporean Bar because he was practising without licenCe.”

He said Najib had replaced his firm, Messrs Shafee & Co, upon the advice of Zaid and Zaid’s Singaporean partner Niru Pillai.

“Zaid informed the applicant (Najib) that he, with the help of several other leading lawyers from India and Singapore, would be able to provide a new perspective in dealing with the final appeal in the Federal Court,” Shafee said.

“Najib was given virtually a guarantee by the lawyer and solicitor that an adjournment would be granted for them to study the matter and submit during the final appeal,” he added.

On the advice of Zist, Najib then appointed Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik to be the new lead counsel, who had echoed the same sentiment about the good prospect of getting an adjournment in view of having a new law firm on board.

“But Hisyam came in with no clue what it’s all about, given the 179 volumes of just the appeal records alone,” Shafee said.

Hisyam had asked for an adjournment of between three and four months to allow him to make the best preparations for the main appeal because he had just taken over the case.

“It is imperative to note that the prosecution themselves did not object to the adjournment application.

“It is therefore mind boggling for the Federal Court not to grant this adjournment between three and four months to enable the new solicitors and counsel to be effectively prepared,” Shafee said.

He questioned the Federal Court’s speed in which it undertook to complete the appeal and to deliver a verdict.

“He (Hisyam) asked for one adjournment. Why are we in a hurry?” he added.

Shafee also touched on the Federal Court’s decision to not allow Najib’s counsel to discharge himself despite having made it clear he was unable to submit his case due to time constraints.

Hisyam had applied to discharge himself as Najib’s counsel if the Federal Court refused to defer hearing the final appeal but was thwarted by the same panel of five judges who reminded the lawyer that he had a duty to his client after accepting the appointment.

“You cannot stop a counsel from discharging himself. It is his right to discharge.

“He (Hisyam) was made to sit throughout the hearing and asked repeatedly whether he could submit and every time he would reply he was not prepared.

“If counsel had been allowed to discharge, which ought to have been because it is his right, the Federal Court would have to grapple with another situation of the appellant having no counsel,” he said, adding that the prospect of adjournment will almost become a certainty then.

He said Zist eventually discharged themselves which was allowed by the court without any issues while Hisyam was left with no option but to sit in the hearing without presenting his case.

“I can’t help but submit this the refusal of adjournment and refusal to allow counsel to discharge himself has got nexus.

“I hesitate to submit this, but I have to say the truth. I think the Federal Court doesn’t want to grapple with the issue of an accused person without counsel,” he said.

To which the court then asked Shafee to clarify whether he was stating a supposition or a personal opinion.

“I am giving a conclusion that is irresistible,” he replied.

Currently incarcerated at Kajang Prison, Najib is also currently pursuing other avenues outside the judiciary, namely a petition for royal pardon as well as a petition before the United Nations over his alleged arbitrary detention.

According to a copy of the notice of motion for the review, the former Pekan MP is also targeting the Federal Court’s decision to dismiss his three interlocutory applications.

One is Najib’s application to recuse trial judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali from the SRC International case and nullify the whole trial, on grounds of an alleged conflict of interest.

Besides an acquittal, Najib may also get a rehearing of his SRC appeal before a different apex panel or a retrial of the entire case before a new High Court judge if his review is allowed.

The BN advisory chairperson still has four other pending criminal court cases, namely the RM2.28 billion 1MDB corruption case, the RM6.6 billion International Petroleum Investment Company CBT case, the 1MDB audit amendment case, and a money laundering case involving RM27 million from SRC.

Hearing of the SRC review would continue on Feb 20.