The clock has started to tick again as former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak bids for a final time to overturn a conviction in a case tied to the 1MDB financial scandal and escape a 12-year prison term beginning Monday (15 August).
On the 3rd day of the proceeding (18 August), Najib pleaded to be given a fair hearing in his final bid after the Federal Court rejected a request from his lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik to recuse himself from the case.
According to FMT, Najib said he wished to record his objection “in the strongest of terms of this appeal proceeding where his rights to life, liberty and a fair hearing are at stake”.
“As you know, my counsel has indicated he is unwilling to continue because (the team) had very limited time to prepare… Unfortunately, the court didn’t allow them,” Najib was quoted as saying.
The drama started when the 5-judge panel, led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, ordered the hearing of Najib’s appeal to start without further delay today after rejecting Hisyam Teh’s request to stop representing Najib.
The other four judges are Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Federal Court judges Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan, Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan and Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah.
According to Tengku Maimum, the panel was of the unanimous view that Hisyam had “failed to disclose adequate reasons” to justify his recusal bid.
“Therefore the application to discharge is refused and counsel remains on record in the interest of justice,” she was quoted as saying.
After the lunch break, Hisyam said that he wish to put in written submissions on behalf of Najib. Earlier, he said that he would be arguing Najib’s case based on submissions filed at the Court of Appeal by Najib’s previous counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.
“Just now when My Lady asked whether I will be relying on submissions in the Court of Appeal, I answered yes.
“At this juncture, I would like to put on record that I wish to put in written submissions on behalf of the appellant,” the experienced lawyer was quoted by the Malay Mail.
However, Tengku Maimun said that the appeal must continue as scheduled, stressing that all parties had been made aware since April that the appeals process had been fixed for hearing from 15 to 26 August.
Hisham Teh was appointed as Najib’s lead counsel on 26 July after Najib replaced his long-time lawyer Muhammad Shafee from the law firm Shafee & Co with former law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s firm, Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners.
In July 2020, Najib had been convicted for one count of abuse of power, three counts of money laundering and three counts of criminal breach of trust linked to the SRC scandal in the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
Following the verdict, he was imposed with 12 years of jail time and a fine of RM210 million. His conviction was subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeal on 8 December last year.