PUTRAJAYA, Aug 18 — In an unexpected turn of events, senior lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik has clarified that he will not be filing any submissions to defend Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the former prime minister’s final appeal against his conviction of misappropriating funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd.
Hisyam had applied to discharge himself as Najib’s counsel this morning if the Federal Court refused to defer hearing the final appeal.
He was thwarted, however, by the panel of five judges led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who reminded the lawyer that he had a duty to his client after accepting the appointment.
During a press conference, Hisyam said he was in no position to participate in the current appeal proceedings since he was not accorded time, which he had applied to court for and was denied, in order to make the necessary preparations for Najib’s defence.
“I can see no meaningful way that I can play as far as proceedings are concerned because we are in fact not prepared.
“Under the circumstances, I am not able to play an effective role. So, in essence, Datuk Seri (Najib) has no legal representation. That is the bottom line,” he told reporters at the Palace of Justice here.
As for this morning’s application to seek a discharge, Hisyam explained that he had opted for a discharge since his team cannot effectively represent Najib as counsel after the Federal Court dismissed the defence’s request to delay the hearing by another “three to four months”.
Hisyam had argued that the SRC International case is not “ordinary” and the defence team’s postponement request was made in good faith in relation to the scope and appeal of the present case.
Earlier, Hisyam told the court he would be arguing for Najib based on previous submissions filed at the Court of Appeal by Najib’s former counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, after the defence cited unpreparedness to present its case as they were appointed at the eleventh hour.
The chief justice then broke from convention earlier today and ordered the prosecution to present its case first so that Najib’s new legal team could have more time to prepare their case.
Ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram, who is leading the prosecution, proceeded with the submission. He was assisted by deputy public prosecutors Donald Joseph Franklin, Sulaiman Kho Kheng Fuei, Mohd Ashrof Adrin Kamarul and Manjira Vasudevan.
Shortly before court adjourned for the day, Hisyam informed the five-judge panel that he wished to clarify his statement on filing “fresh submissions” that was carried by the media earlier.
The lawyer explained that he would be filing “fresh submission” only in the event of an adjournment being granted.
To this Tengku Maimun said the court has repeatedly made its stand of denying any form of adjournment and has given liberty to the defence to reply the prosecution’s submission later.
Hisyam then replied that he will not be participating at any point in time during the proceedings.
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.
The hearing at the country’s supreme court had been scheduled to take place over nine days, from August 15 to August 19, and will resume after this weekend from August 23 to August 26.
August 15 and 16 were spent hearing Najib’s bid to add new evidence and seek a postponement that were ultimately disallowed by the Federal Court. The court then fixed August 18 as the start of the main SRC International appeal hearing.
The case is now at the Federal Court, and it is Najib’s last chance to convince the judges that his conviction and punishment should be overturned.