Najib Razak's new legal firm for his final appeal in the SRC International case today said that it would not abandon the former prime minister.
Zaid Ibrahim in a statement said that his firm, Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (ZIST), made no statement during the case management hearing in chambers that the firm would be discharging itself as solicitors.
The former law minister was referring to news reports on the Aug 10 case management of Najib's SRC International case at the Federal Court which he said were incorrect or inaccurate.
"My firm did not make any such statement during case management. We do not abandon our clients. Any media report stating the contrary is mischievous and regrettable," he said.
Zaid also claimed that his law firm had not been motivated by money when it agreed to represent the Pekan MP in his SRC International appeal.
"My firm agreed to take on this brief because our client has legitimate grievances with regards to his conviction, particularly on matters relating to rule of law, the law relating to bias, and conflict of interest. It is the sacred duty of any advocate to represent an accused person with such grievances.
"In doing so, I am not prejudging the case, as any respectable lawyer would attest. Passing judgment is the domain of the courts. As lawyers, our duty is to present the client’s case to the best of our ability," he said, adding that he expects the courts to uphold time-honoured legal principles and that the rule of law would prevail.
Najib’s legitimate expectation was that he would get a full and fair hearing before the Federal Court, Zaid said, adding that it was their duty as his solicitors to enable that process.
"I regret that in doing so, scurrilous attacks have been made against my firm and me personally. Sepang MP Mohamed Hanipa Maidin’s insinuation yesterday that lawyers who take on briefs at the last minute are motivated by money is grossly unfair.
"Here, I want to state categorically that throughout my career as a lawyer and politician, I have never been motivated by money or position. Justice is what matters to me.
"In any event, it is a preposterous notion that there is never a justification for a last-minute change of lawyers. In this case, there was a genuine need for a change of perspective and a reset of arguments in defence of our client’s case," he said.
To the claim that the appointment was purely an attempt to delay the appeal, Zaid said this was the first time Najib had changed lawyers.
"I believe that my firm has brought a fresh perspective to the case. On our advice, Najib has abandoned certain propositions previously put forward. We are purely focused on constitutional principles, the rule of law, the principles of natural justice and the specific legal and factual issues in the application for retrial and the appeal proper.
"We are prepared to proceed with the motion for retrial when it comes up for hearing on Monday. As lawyers, we have a duty to justice without fear or favour. We must be slow to question the basis on which any other lawyer takes a brief because we must respect the professional judgement of our peers.
"Applying our professional judgement, my firm placed itself on record as solicitors for Najib. We will continue to act for him for so long as we have his confidence," he said.
Media reports on Aug 10 had said that the legal firm would discharge itself if the Federal Court insisted on proceeding with the hearing of Najib’s final appeal next week against his 12-year jail term and RM210 million fine for the misappropriation of RM42 million in SRC International funds.
On July 26, Najib appointed Hisyam Teh Poh Teik from Messrs Hisyam Teh as his lead counsel and ZIST partners Liew Teck Huat and M Rueben as his new solicitors.