KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah claimed today that he was being “harassed” over a RM9.5 million sum for his work as a lawyer in handling election petition cases for Barisan Nasional (BN), also voicing fears that he was allegedly being victimised due to his role as Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s defence lawyer in the latter’s criminal trial.
Having asserted that the RM9.5 million payment received from Najib previously was not for his services as an ad hoc prosecutor for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II appeals, Shafee went on to question the alleged harassment he is now facing.
Shafee said that he had acted as a lawyer for Barisan Nasional and Umno since the 1990s throughout the terms of different prime ministers — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, adding that he was never a member of any political party and that his links to BN and Umno was merely as their lawyer.
He said he had also provided legal services in the form of urgent legal opinions and documentation to the previous BN government and the respective prime ministers, further explaining that the RM9.5 million was paid to him for his legal work for BN in 46 election petition cases in 2004 and 2006.
“I am a regular advocate and solicitor who works for fees. Why am I being scrutinised when I collect fees for my Umno/BN work?
“If you allow lawyers to be harassed like this under purported money laundering investigations etc, the future of the legal profession is impeded,” the senior private lawyer said in a six-page statement today.
He then sought to draw a comparison with his situation with several private lawyers now either working for the government or appointed to lead prosecutors for Najib’s trial and the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) matter.
“As pointed out by the Prime Minister Tun Mahathir recently who when asked by journalists whether Tommy Thomas was a crony of PH leaders he retorted ‘lawyers take cases that bring in their income’.
“Am I any different to the AG Tommy when he was engaged to represent Anwar and Lim Guan Eng, or for that matter Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah, who was Anwar’s lawyer in Sodomy I and defamation cases (now a DPP on fiat against Najib), or Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram who used to represent Anwar in the Sodomy II appeal (and now a DPP in the Attorney General’s chambers)?” he asked.
Shafee also voiced his concern that a court document by an officer under the Attorney-General’s Chambers on the RM9.5 million issue may have deliberately carried misleading comments to allow others to take advantage of them against him.
“These recent developments, I fear, is a setting to victimise and demonise me and to put unfair pressure on the Attorney General’s Office to take action against me.
“I fear that the Attorney General’s office is being exploited to victimise me, perhaps to discourage me in the defence of Najib in his case,” he claimed.
Shafee is currently the lead defence counsel for Najib, who will be facing trial next year for seven charges of criminal breach of trust, power abuse and money-laundering offences over a RM42 million sum linked to 1MDB’s former subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd.
Shafee today said he was surprised and appalled at the AGC officer’s disclosure in the court document of matters related to the RM9.5 million payment, which Shafee said was still under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s active investigation, also criticising the officer’s response as allegedly being incorrect.
Shafee said he had previously refrained from explaining the RM9.5 million issue since it was under probe, but said he was now forced to publicly explain it along with the full details as the court document had been released in the public domain by Anwar and others.
Shafee said this was despite the affidavit or sworn statement having just been affirmed on September 5 and yet to become a public document by being read in court.
“I am reserving my rights to take the necessary steps against this unprecedented breach of confidentiality by a serving DPP,” he said.