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Najib’s legal team says Queen’s Counsel unrivalled among Malaysian lawyers

His lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah also says that Jonathan Laidlaw has been listed as one of Britain's 500 most influential individuals.

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Former prime minister Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur court complex for a 1MDB-related case on May 30. Photo: Bernama
Former prime minister Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur court complex for a 1MDB-related case on May 30. Photo: Bernama

Najib Razak’s legal team says that Jonathan Laidlaw, the Queen’s Counsel from the UK seeking to act for the former prime minister in his SRC International appeal, has special qualifications and experience of a nature not available among the advocates and solicitors in Malaysia.

Najib’s lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, in an affidavit to support the bid for Laidlaw to represent Najib in his final appeal at the Federal Court in August, said Laidlaw, who has appeared in 109 reported cases in the Divisional Court, Court of Appeal and House of Lords (now the Supreme Court), had qualifications and experience in a range of corruption cases, both in the UK and in overseas jurisdictions.

“By way of example only, he represented two members of the House of Lords and a member of the House of Commons who were embroiled in the era-defining ‘cash for honours’ scandal which involved an alleged link between loans to UK political parties and the granting of life peerages (following representations, none faced charges and therefore cannot be identified).

“He prosecuted the largest ever investigation into corruption in the Metropolitan Police Service, which led to the conviction of two Flying Squad officers (Garner and McGuinness) who then turned Queen’s evidence against a number of former colleagues.

“He prosecuted a Crown Prosecution Service lawyer for corruption, following an undercover sting operation which revealed the individual to have been prepared to compromise prosecutions in favour of career criminals, and has recently advised an individual seeking to bring a private prosecution against members of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs,” said Shafee, adding that Laidlaw had been listed by the Sunday Times as one of Britain’s 500 most influential individuals.

He said Laidlaw also specialised in business and financial crimes, and was consistently ranked by the UK legal directories as one of their “star silks”, adding that he was a previous recipient of the Chambers and Partners “Crime Silk of the Year” award.

Shafee said Laidlaw had appeared for a large number of corporate clients, including Texaco, Gulf, BOC, Ford, Southern Cross, Esso, BHP Billiton, and Fluor.

“He has appeared for both corporations and their directors in cases involving corporate criminal liabilities. In recent years, he successfully defended BHP Billiton in a series of cases brought by the Department of Trade and Industry of England, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Health and Safety Executive arising from incidents at the Liverpool Bay oil and gas field,” he added.

Shafee said Laidlaw was also involved in the biggest fraud case brought by way of private prosecution in the UK on behalf of the Allseas Group, which resulted in the individual being convicted for fraud involving 100 million euros.

Thus, he said, Laidlaw’s accomplishments were of an exceptional degree and excelled the measure of accomplishments reached by advocates and solicitors of Malaysia.

“I further believe that no advocate or solicitor practising in Malaysia can be said to possess an equal degree of accomplishment, experience and expertise as that acquired by the applicant,” he said.

He also said that serious, complex or novel issues related to the appeal would arise for consideration by the apex court for the first time, whereby most of the issues had never been substantively judicially determined in Malaysia in any like cases in which local advocates and solicitors had appeared.

“I believe there are no other advocates and solicitors in Malaysia which possess equal qualification, experience and expertise to that of the applicant, particularly for the purposes of advancing the appellant’s case,” said Shafee.

He also asked the court to consider that the applicant’s undoubted, special and particular expertise would be advantageous to not only the applicant, but also the Malaysian criminal justice system.

He said the common law tradition, in particular the experience of the English jurisdiction, had the capacity to inform and benefit Malaysian jurisprudence.

On Jan 25, law firm Messrs Shafee & Co submitted a six-page letter to the secretariat of Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat on Najib’s intention to appoint a Queen’s Counsel to assist him in complex issues and legal questions in his SRC appeal at the apex court.

On April 29, the Federal Court fixed 10 days in August to hear Najib’s final bid against his conviction and jail sentence for the misappropriation of RM42 million in SRC International funds.

On Dec 8, 2021, the Court of Appeal upheld Najib’s conviction, 12-year jail sentence and RM210 million fine for misappropriating RM42 million belonging to SRC International.

Judge Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, along with with Has Zanah Mehat and Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera, unanimously dismissed Najib’s appeal against the High Court’s decision on July 28, 2020.

The Federal Court will be the final avenue for the Pekan MP to appeal against his sentence and conviction.