KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — United Kingdom-based lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw has applied to the High Court in Kuala Lumpur to be admitted as a lawyer in Malaysia, in order to be able to represent former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the latter’s final appeal at the Federal Court against his conviction, jail sentence and RM210 million fine in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case.

When contacted, Najib’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed confirmed that the application to bring in the Queen’s Counsel (QC) from the UK was filed today in the courts, which was also the deadline to file it.

"Deadline is actually 31st May and yes we have filed it,” he confirmed to Malay Mail.

In the application filed by Laidlaw and sighted by Malay Mail, he sought to be admitted and enrolled to practise in the High Court in Malaya or Peninsular Malaysia to appear as Najib’s lead counsel in the SRC appeals at the Federal Court "and all other causes or matters related hereto”.

One of the reasons for Laidlaw’s application was stated as being that Najib’s SRC appeal at the Federal Court "will involve serious, complex and/or novel issues related to several branches of criminal and civil laws, practice and evidence, the constitutional rights of the appellant, the conduct of proceedings by the prosecution, the adjudication of criminal cases by a trial court and the administration of a Criminal Justice system”.

Another reason stated in Laidlaw’s application was that Najib wishes to engage his professional services to act as his lead counsel in the SRC appeal, and that the law firm and lawyer representing Najib — Messrs Shafee & Co and Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah — had given these instructions to Laidlaw.

The same application also stated that another reason as being that Laidlaw "possess special qualifications, experience and expertise which is not available” among lawyers in Malaysia, for the purposes of Najib’s SRC appeal at the Federal Court.

Another reason for Laidlaw’s application is the assertion that he is eligible and qualifies under the Legal Profession Act’s (LPA) Section 18(1) to be admitted and enrolled to practise as a lawyer in the High Court of Malaya to appear as Najib’s lead counsel in the SRC appeals and other related matters.

One of the qualifications in the LPA for a person to be admitted as a lawyer in Malaysia is the requirement to either be a Malaysian citizen or permanent resident of Malaysia, but Section 18 contains provision for admission in special cases.

Under Section 18(1), the High Court may admit a person — who would have been eligible to be admitted as a lawyer in Malaysia if he was a Malaysian citizen or permanent resident — to practise as a lawyer here, for the purpose of any one case and if certain conditions are fulfilled.

The conditions required to be fulfilled under Section 18(1) are if this person has — in the court’s opinion — special qualifications or experience not available among lawyers in Malaysia for the purpose of that particular case, and also if he has been instructed by a lawyer in Malaysia to act for that case.

The application by Laidlaw to be admitted as a lawyer in Malaysia for the SRC appeal was filed on his behalf by Shafee’s firm, with the reasons or grounds for his application provided in an affidavit by Shafee.

A check by Malay Mail on the Barristers’ Register on the Bar Standards Board’s website shows that Laidlaw is a registered barrister in the UK who was first called to the Bar in 1982.

Laidlaw’s law firm’s website stated that he became Queen’s Counsel in 2008, with his areas of practice stated as mainly business and financial crime, with other areas covering matters such as criminal defence, private prosecutions, health and safety, inquests and inquiries, professional discipline and sports law.

According to the website of his London-based law firm, Laidlaw currently acts for a number of individuals who are the subject of investigations by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) which deals with serious or complex fraud, bribery and corruption cases, the UK’s financial services industry regulator Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and the US’ Department of Justice (DoJ).

The Federal Court had on April 29 notified both Najib’s lawyers and the prosecution that it will be hearing his SRC appeal over 10 days from August 15 to August 19, and from August 22 to August 26.

This SRC appeal at the Federal Court will be the last appeal that Najib can pursue, since his conviction was at the High Court and his previous appeal at the Court of Appeal was dismissed.

The High Court on July 28, 2020 found Najib to be guilty of the misappropriation of SRC’s RM42 million and sentenced him, while the Court of Appeal’s three-judge panel had on December 8, 2021 unanimously upheld Najib’s conviction and fine and jail sentencing.

Najib on December 8, 2021 filed an appeal to the Federal Court, and this is the appeal that the highest court in Malaysia is scheduled to hear in August.