KUALA LUMPUR, June 29 — The British lawyer, Jonathan Laidlaw, Datuk Seri Najib Razak is seeking to bring to Malaysia is unsuited to represent him in his final appeal against his conviction over the misappropriation of RM42 million of SRC International Sdn Bhd’s funds, the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee said today.
The committee, which currently represents close to 10,000 lawyers in Kuala Lumpur, today objected to Laidlaw being allowed to appear as a lawyer here just for Najib’s case and argued that Najib’s current lead defence lawyer, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, is better suited for the role.
In an affidavit filed at the High Court today by Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee chairman Vivekananda Sukumaran to oppose Laidlaw’s application to be allowed to practise here for the purpose of representing Najib, the committee argued that the British lawyer does not fulfil the legal requirements under Section 18 of the Legal Profession Act to be eligible to be admitted as a lawyer in Malaysia.
It further argued that Laidlaw does not have any special qualification or experience that is not available among Malaysia’s own lawyers.
The KL Bar Committee highlighted that Shafee himself is well-placed to appear for Najib in his final SRC appeal at the Federal Court, as he has been the lead defence lawyer for Najib at the High Court and Court of Appeal for this case and related applications.
“There is nothing to suggest that Muhammad Shafee Abdullah has lost confidence to argue the appeal; nor that the appellant has lost confidence in Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s competence to discharge his role as lead counsel in the appeal,” Vivekananda said in his affidavit on behalf of the KL Bar committee.
Shafee has sufficient experience to represent Najib in the SRC appeal at the Federal Court, pointing out that he was a deputy public prosecutor handling criminal prosecutions and high profile cases until he left the Attorney-General’s Chambers in 1983, the committee said.
It also said Shafee, as a private lawyer, has experience in handling high-profile corruption cases and was involved in matters involving relevant constitutional issues such as the right to fair trial, and that his experience also includes commercial law.
“Finally, it is also doubtful whether the applicant, a foreign practitioner, who handled neither the lengthy trial nor the appeal and lacking local knowledge (and even perhaps exhibits in Bahasa Malaysia) would be able to provide effective assistance to the Federal Court in this appeal,” he said, referring to Laidlaw as the applicant.
Among other things, the KL Bar Committee argued that the key issues expected to arise in the final SRC appeal are on interpretation of Malaysian law and Malaysia’s Federal Constitution, and said Laidlaw does not seem to have special qualifications or experience in such legal matters.
The KL Bar Committee said there are many Malaysian lawyers who are competent with the relevant qualification and experience and available to argue such areas of law, before then going on to highlight Shafee’s suitability to represent Najib to argue such legal matters in the SRC appeal.
On May 31, Laidlaw filed an application at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur to be admitted under Section 18(1) of the Legal Profession Act to practise in Malaysia as Najib wants to hire him for the final SRC appeal at the Federal Court, claiming to “possess special qualifications, experience and expertise which is not available” among lawyers in Malaysia.
The four respondents to the application are the prosecution in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case, the attorney general, the Malaysian Bar, and the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee, which are all objecting to the application.
On June 13, the prosecution in Najib’s SRC appeal filed an affidavit to oppose Laidlaw’s application, arguing that Laidlaw does not have special experience not available locally and that Shafee is better equipped to represent Najib in the SRC appeal.
On June 27, the Malaysian Bar also filed an affidavit to oppose Laidlaw’s application, arguing that Shafee and his legal team have been involved in the SRC case from the start and are familiar with the charges and the related laws, and that Shafee has greater experience and qualifications than Laidlaw on the issues in the SRC appeal.
High Court judge Datuk Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid is scheduled to hear Laidlaw’s application on July 6.
The Federal Court is scheduled to hear Najib’s SRC appeal over a period of 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 over the misappropriation of RM42 million of SRC funds was at the High Court in July 2020 and his previous appeal at the Court of Appeal was unanimously dismissed by a three-judge panel on December 8, 2021.
Ahead of this final appeal hearing in August, Najib had also on June 7 applied to the Federal Court to add on purported further evidence that he claimed to have discovered recently, and is seeking for his entire trial for the SRC case in the High Court to be declared null and void and for a retrial.