Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his counsel have engaged Jonathan Laidlaw to represent him in his appeal in the SRC International corruption case.
According to FMT, Laidlaw is one of the UK’s most prominent criminal lawyers with over 40 years of experience in the legal field. He was also reported to have seek the High Court’s permission to argue the SRC International case on an ad hoc basis.
In his petition, Laidlaw said the SRC International case involved “serious, complex, and novel issues related to several branches of criminal and civil laws. For the purpose of the appeal, the applicant (Laidlaw) possesses special qualifications, experience, and expertise which is not available among the lawyers here”.
Najib is set to appear in the Federal Court on 15 August to appeal his conviction in the SRC International case, in which he was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million. He is not out on bail pending his Federal Court hearing.
If he fails to appeal his case in the highest court in Malaysia, he will go to jail — unless he receives a royal pardon.
Meanwhile, Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said Laidlaw has the qualifications and experience in a whole range of corruption cases both in the UK and in overseas jurisdictions.
In addition, he is also a Queen’s Counsel, a recognition conferred by the Crown for their excellence in advocacy in their capacity as a barrister or solicitor.
Shafee said Laidlaw is listed by Sunday Times as one of Britain’s 500 most influential individuals, and that he has appeared for many corporate clients, including Texaco, Gulf, Ford, Esso, and BHP Billiton.
Nonetheless, this is not the first time in Malaysia’s history that someone has sought a Queen’s Counsel to appear in their case.
In 2006, a local company attempted to engage the services of Cherie Blair, a Queen’s Counsel, but the application was dismissed by the Federal Court.
In a unanimous decision, the court stated that Blair had not demonstrated she had special qualifications and experience of a nature not available amongst advocates and solicitors in Malaysia.
Under the Legal Profession Act (LPA), the High Court may allow a Malaysian lawyer to request a non-Malaysian and permanent resident expert to act for the case if they possess special qualifications or experience not available among lawyers in Malaysia.
However, the court must have regard for the views of “the Attorney-General, the Secretary of the Bar Council, and of the State Bar Committee in the state where such cause or matter is to be heard and the other party to the cause or matter” before making the decision.
Hence, this would mean that Laidlaw can only represent Najib if the Attorney-General, the Secretary of the Bar Council, and the State Bar Committee agree that Laidlaw’s credentials are unparalleled and unavailable among local lawyers, and if the court grants the application in its final decision.
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