How Najib’s top lawyers trapped, outsmarted by first woman Chief Justice

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Najib hopes to win Agong’s (King) sympathy that he has been wrongly jailed because the Federal Court did not give him the toys he wanted.

Since the 1988 Malaysia Constitutional Crisis (also known as the 1988 Judicial Crisis), which ended with the suspension and the eventual removal of Lord President of the Supreme Court Salleh Abas, the country’s judiciary system has become UMNO playground. Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister who destroyed the system, then ruled with iron-fist without any check and balance.

Ironically, the same man who had demolished not only the judicial independence, but also practised dictatorial-style leadership and gerrymandering and misused institutional tools to manipulate an electoral process to stay in power for 22 years (from 1981 to 2003), had to go back to the broken system to repair it after the May 2018 General Election.

After defeating his former United Malays National Organization (UMNO) in 2018, Mahathir became prime minister for the second time under Pakatan Harapan government. Make no mistake. Mahathir had to revive the system not because he regretted what he did in 1988, but rather, he needed to clean certain part of the corrupted system to send protégé-turned-nemesis Najib Razak to prison.

Arguably, the two most important decisions made by the Pakatan Harapan government were the appointment of Tommy Thomas as the Attorney General and Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat as the country’s first woman Chief Justice. Thomas was responsible for prosecuting Najib Razak while Maimun is now leading a five-member bench that hears the former premier’s final appeal.

But the AG and Chief Justice were not the only strategic appointments made during the Pakatan government. There’s a reason why High Court Judge Nazlan Mohd Ghazali was entrusted to hear the trial of Najib’s corruption from the beginning. If the High Court judge is corrupted, Najib’s prosecution will be screwed and there’s very little the Court of Appeal or Federal Court could do.

The High Court judge can be considered as the first line of defence and Chief Justice the last line of defence against potential political interference. As the Chief Justice, Tengku Maimun gets to decide the composition of the bench hearing Najib’s final appeal at the Federal Court. But when it was reported in March that she will lead the court, it sent shivers down the spine of Najib camp.

Today (Aug 18), the chief justice demonstrates who’s the boss in the highest court and the final appellate court in the country. Fresh from Najib and his counsel’s drama on Tuesday (Aug 16), where the defence team expressed their shock and disappointment after their attempt to adduce fresh evidence was rejected, now Najib’s lawyers have resorted to childish and thuggish behaviour.


The arrogant Najib and his overly-confident lawyers were betting that the Federal Court would give in to at least one of two demands – a fresh retrial based on dubious accusation that High Court Judge Nazlan had committed serious conflict of interest when presiding over the SRC International trial, or agree to postpone the final appeal by three or four months.

Of course, it was a delay tactic deployed by Najib’s multi-million-dollar top legal team to keep him out of prison – till after the 15th General Election. The strategy is to intimidate – even change the judges – once Najib’s corrupted political party wins the polls. There’s no other option to escape jail as all evidence – both domestic and foreign – are stacked against the ex-PM.

However, Tengku Maimun and her fellow judges, after observing Najib’s trial since 2018, knew all the dirty tricks that the crook would unleash. So, when the court ruled against both demands on the second day, all hell broke loose. A week before the final appeal, Najib’s lawyers pre-emptively threatened to withdraw if the Federal Court refuses to grant the postponement which they demanded.

Lecturing Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners, who in turn appointed Hisyam Teh Poh Teik as lead counsel, Tengku Maimun deliberately invoked Rule 6(a) of the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978 which stipulated that an advocate and solicitor must not accept a brief he is reasonably certain of not being able to appear and represent the client on the required day.

As expected, in the morning of the third day (Aug 18), Najib’s newly appointed top lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik applied to discharge himself from acting as the former premier counsel. However, the chief justice was well prepared. Refused to be bullied, Tengku Maimun stunningly rejected the defence’s request, reminding him of his duty to his client after accepting the appointment.

Caught with his pants down, Hisyam then told the court he would be arguing for Najib based on the submissions filed in the Court of Appeal by Najib’s previous lead counsel Shafee Abdullah. However, in the afternoon, Hisyam made a U-turn and said he would not be filing any submissions at all to defend his client, arguing he was not prepared because the court has refused to grant him more time.

It appears the defence plunged into panic momentarily when the chief justice ordered the prosecution to present its case first, allowing Najib’s new legal team to have more time to prepare. During the chaos, Hisyam blinked after Tengku Maimun called his bluff. He agreed to proceed with submissions, only to find out it was a mistake as Najib’s plan was to delay the appeal – by hook or by crook.

For the first time in the country’s judiciary system, a defence lawyer and his client have conspired to create a situation where the client has no legal representation. The disgraceful lawyers – Zaid Ibrahim and Hisyam Teh – willingly sacrificed their reputation in order to help the crooked Najib blackmail the Federal Court. Sore loser Najib is not ready to go to prison.

The game is to create a perception that Najib has been denied a fair trial, despite the fact that the convicted criminal has been enjoying freedom, including travelling overseas to visit his daughter. “Drama King Najib” has started whining, crying and bitching that he is now “defenceless” in his final appeal against his conviction, creating an illusion that he has been victimized by the judicial.

Heck, the shameless son of Razak has even complained that his right to life, liberty and a fair hearing was at stake, as if he was Martin Luther King Jr who was discriminated by the American racist system. Even if his wish is granted, Najib can keep changing his lawyers, who in turn will ask for 4-month postponements, and the delay drama repeats indefinitely.

From the beginning, Hisyam, supposedly a renowned lawyer in the field of criminal litigation, was hired by Najib to do only one thing – to delay the final appeal. Despite bragging that he will neither hide nor run away, but fight his case in the court, Najib has absolutely zero confidence in the Federal Court, not with Chief Justice Tengku Maimun leading his final appeal.

High Court Judge Nazlan had in July 2020 sentenced Najib Razak to 12 years in prison for abuse of power, and 10 years in jail for each of six counts of money laundering and breach of trust (CBT) in addition to RM210 million fines. On December 8, 2021, the Court of Appeal upheld Najib’s conviction – and even called the 1MDB scandal a “national embarrassment”.

Essentially, the crook had eight months to prepare his appeal, but chose to find ways to delay it with various dirty tricks. Even when opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was persecuted by Najib for sodomy, Anwar was brave enough to face his last appeal. Najib, the self-proclaimed Bugis Warrior, should stop acting like a coward and instead face the music like a real man with balls.

If Najib really had lost confidence in his self-declared hotshot lead lawyer Shafee Abdullah in the first place, he should have fired him after he lost in the High Court, and not continued paying the useless attorney for his appeal at the Court of Appeal, and certainly not firing him only at the eleventh hour (July) before the final appeal. His Bollywood drama sucks.

Hilariously, Najib and his former lead counsel Shafee had previously expressed confidence when they submitted 94 grounds in the Petition of Appeal on why the former prime minister should be freed of the charges of misappropriating RM42 million in SRC International. What happened to the secret sauce that would prove Najib’s innocence? Why can’t Hisyam use it to argue his case?

Najib should not worry about not having defence attorneys. The Federal Court can provide free legal representative, who will gladly read from the previously submitted Petition of Appeal. So, he should be careful what he wishes for. The more he tries to intimidate and blackmail the highest court, the easier it will be for the judges to deliver their verdict.

In fact, if Najib and his legal advisers refuse to proceed with the appeal under the pretext that the defendant has no legal representation, the court can decide that the defence team has conceded or withdrew their appeal. Chief Justice cannot allow some clowns to waste the court’s time, let alone set a bad precedence that the Federal Court could be blackmailed in the future. Therefore, it can deliver its decision, which will not be a nice one for Najib.

Shedding crocodile tears now as if he has been robbed of his Oscar award is also part of Najib’s preparation to justify for a royal pardon later. Najib hopes to win Agong’s (King) sympathy that he has been wrongly jailed because the Federal Court did not give him the toys he wanted. The sore loser lost the game of Monopoly, but claims he has been cheated and is throwing tantrums.

Najib should be proud to become the first former prime minister – and the first son of Abdul Razak – to be jailed. His name would be cherished in the history book. To keep him company, his deputy Zahid Hamidi could join him soon. Unlike other prisoners, he will most likely receive special privileges during his vacation. Just remember – don’t drop the soap! – Finance Twitter