PUTRAJAYA, Aug 16 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak's new legal team today requested the Federal Court to postpone hearing his final appeal against his conviction of misappropriating funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd that would send the former prime minister straight to jail for 12 years and pay a RM210 million fine if upheld.
His lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik asked the five-judge panel led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat to delay the hearing by another “three to four months”, arguing that it is not long in comparison to the time frame it took for the case to be heard today, following the Court of Appeal decision last year.
Earlier, Tengku Maimun had directed the hearing of the main SRC International appeal to proceed, after dismissing a motion by Najib’s defence team to adduce further evidence.
“If the court allows me three to four months, this means this appeal is heard one year after the decision of the Court of Appeal, which is not too long in the current circumstances,” he said.
Hisyam argued that the SRC International case is not “ordinary” and the defence team’s postponement request was made in good faith.
He also argued that Najib’s new legal team was only appointed on July 21 but had been given “voluminous” records of the case to go through.
The lawyer also said he had never asked for adjournments in the four-and-a-half decades he had been practising, adding that he was well-aware of the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules.
“I say, in my practice for four-and-a-half decades, there are strong points of law to be argued. Serious arguments will be made by the defence,” Hisyam said while visibly holding back his emotions.
Najib was previously represented by Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah in both the High Court and Court of Appeal; but the latter was abruptly discharged last month.
On July 26, law firm Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners notified the apex court of its appointment as solicitors and that of Hisyam as lead counsel.
The firm immediately requested a postponement of the hearing, which was rejected by the court.
The Court of Appeal had on December 8, 2021 upheld the High Court’s July 2020 verdict and sentence of 12 years in prison and a fine of RM210 million meted against Najib.
Najib had been found guilty of one count of abuse of power, three counts of criminal breach of trust, and three counts of money laundering.
Hearing in the country’s supreme court has been scheduled to take place over nine days, starting yesterday till August 19 and will resume after this weekend on August 23 until August 26.
Leading the prosecution is ad hoc prosecutor V. Sithambaram who was assisted by deputy public prosecutors Donald Joseph Franklin, Sulaiman Kho Kheng Fuei, Mohd Ashrof Adrin Kamarul and Manjira Vasudevan.
In reply, Sithambaram said the court had twice during case management opposed the postponement of the appeal, with the newly appointed counsel being aware of the matter since they have attended said meetings.
Sithambaram said the prosecution would leave the matter to the hands of the court and did not raise any objections.
The court later stood down for two hours to decide on the adjournment application.
The other four judges on the bench were 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.
The case is now at the Federal Court and it is Najib’s last chance to convince the judges his conviction and punishment should be overturned.