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High Court throws out bid for QC to represent Najib in final SRC appeal

The judge says Jonathan Laidlaw has failed to show that he has more experience than the local advocates and solicitors in Malaysia.

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Former prime minister Najib Razak. Photo: Bernama
Former prime minister Najib Razak. Photo: Bernama

The Kuala Lumpur High Court today rejected the application for UK Queen’s Counsel Jonathan Laidlaw to represent former prime minister Najib Razak in his final appeal against his conviction of misappropriating RM42 million belonging to SRC International.

Judge Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid ruled that Laidlaw failed to show he has special qualifications and experience to handle the charges against Najib, in Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, Section 409 of the Penal Code and Section 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLATFPUAA) 2001.

"It is my view that the mere fact that Laidlaw had conducted several cases involving business crimes and financial services, criminal defence, criminal regulatory, inquest and public inquiries, private prosecution, sports law and professional discipline in the UK, as well as in other jurisdictions (except for Malaysia), cannot be said to mean that there are no local advocates available in Malaysia who do not possess the same skills and success in conducting trials in respect of charges under AMLATFPUAA, MACC Act 2009 and Penal Code.

"I find that there is no single evidence to suggest that Laidlaw has much more experience than the local advocates and solicitors in Malaysia. I am of the considered view that the local advocates are well capable of handling such cases at all tiers of the court in Malaysia.

"This does not justify the need to have Laidlaw be admitted on an ad hoc basis as the lead counsel for the appeal before the Federal Court," said the judge in the online proceedings.
Kamal also said that the application should be dismissed as there were no complex and novel issues that required the interim admission of Laidlaw.

"The applicant (Laidlaw) has failed to satisfy the requirements under Section 18(1) of the LPA (Legal Profession Act 1976) that for the SRC appeal and other related causes, he has special qualification or experience of a nature that is not available among advocates and solicitors in Malaysia.

"I agree with the submissions by the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Malaysian Bar and the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee that the appeal can quite competently be handled by local advocates and solicitors," he said.

The judge also stressed that Laidlaw had not shown that local advocates and solicitors lack the ability or special qualifications to conduct the said appeals. 

"It is undeniable that Laidlaw is deemed as the ‘star skill in financial crimes’ but to me, that alone does not suffice as possessing special skills, expertise, qualifications and knowledge on the application of the MACC Act 2009 and AMLATFPUAA 2001, Penal Code and our sui generis Federal Constitution in our country which is relevant to the appeals before the apex court next month,” he said.

On May 31, Najib filed the application to allow the QC to represent him in the SRC International appeal on several grounds, one of which being that Laidlaw possessed special qualifications, experience and expertise which were not available among lawyers in Malaysia.

On April 29, the Federal Court set 10 days in August to hear Najib’s appeal against his conviction and jail sentence for the misappropriation of the company’s funds.