PUTRAJAYA, Aug 18 — Veteran lawyer Hisyam Teh has failed to get five judges in the Federal Court to allow him to discharge himself from representing Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the former prime minister’s final appeal against his conviction of misappropriating funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd.
The panel, led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, also ordered the hearing of Najib’s appeal proper to start without further delay today.
Tengku Maimun said the five judges shared the same view that Hisyam had “failed to disclose adequate cause” to justify his discharge from representing Najib.
She had earlier noted that counsel may only discharge themselves if they could give an adequate reason for doing so but that the court still has the discretion to grant or deny their discharge application.
“Therefore the application to discharge is refused and counsel remains on record in the interest of justice,” she said.
She then asked if the defence would be arguing its case based on submissions filed at the Court of Appeal by Najib’s previous counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.
Hisyam said yes.
The chief justice then ordered the prosecution to present its case first to give more time for Najib’s legal team 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.
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 latest decision follows an application this morning by Hisyam to discharge himself from representing Najib as lead counsel should the defence's request for adjournment by another “three to four months” is not granted, citing more time was needed to prepare their case after being appointed at the eleventh hour.
Tengku Maimun said the court will not be reviewing its decision on refusing adjournment and that nothing has changed since.
Najib was previously represented by Muhammad Shafee from the law firm Shafee & Co 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 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 August 15 till August 19 and will resume after this weekend on August 23 until August 26.
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.