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No deferral, Najib's final SRC appeal to proceed on Aug 18

A five-man Federal Court bench has dismissed his application to postpone the hearing of his appeal.

3 minute read
Former prime minister Najib Razak at the Federal Court today. Photo: Bernama
Former prime minister Najib Razak at the Federal Court today. Photo: Bernama

Najib Razak's main appeal to set aside his conviction and sentence in the RM42 million SRC International case will be heard on Aug 18.

This follows the decision of the five-man Federal Court panel led by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, dismissing Najib’s application to postpone the hearing of his appeal.

"The main appeal will proceed on Thursday at 9.30am," Tengku Maimun said.

This is the former prime minister's final appeal after a three-man Court of Appeal bench on Dec 8 last year upheld the Pekan MP’s conviction, 12-year jail term and RM210 million fine handed down by High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Ghazali on July 28, 2020.

The other judges on the bench are Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Federal Court judges Nallini Pathmanathan, Mary Lim Thiam Suan and Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah.

In delivering the court’s decision, Tengku Maimun ruled that the request for a postponement by Najib’s lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik for a period of at least three to four months was unanimously refused as the right to a fair trial is that justice cannot be unduly delayed.

"In this regard, we remind ourselves of the Chief Justice’s Code of Ethics, which states that cases of this nature must be prioritised. The stark reality is that considerable public funds would be wasted if granting an adjournment in a case of this kind was an easier option.

"Article 8 of the Federal Constitution and the rule of law demand that the appellant be treated like any other accused. As such, we state again that while the appellant is entitled to his right to change his counsel, he was not entitled to make this choice at the expense of the court, the prosecution or the entire justice system," she said, adding that the defence had sought an adjournment of these appeals for the simple reason that they were not prepared.

Tengku Maimun added that the time taken on this case, especially the number of days fixed for hearing, meant that many other criminal cases and accused persons had had to wait their turn for their appeals to be heard. 

"Justice delayed, in this case, is also justice denied to other accused persons," she said.

In the context of this case, Tengku Maimun said, the court unreservedly accepted the notion that the right to a fair trial is part and parcel of the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution. 

"This leads us to the primary reason given by the counsel for the appellant in favour of an adjournment which we stated earlier. In short, an adjournment ought to be granted because the new defence team needs adequate time to prepare. In other words, they are not ready. 

"We start by saying we agree that in appropriate cases, where the counsel is not ready to proceed for legitimate reasons, the court should be minded to adjourn a cause or matter. We do not think this is the case here," she said, adding that the counsel should make every effort to be ready for trial.

Tengku Maimun said the appellant had in fact been well aware of the dates fixed for the hearing and had elected to discharge his former solicitors and appoint Messrs Zaid Ibrahim and Hisyam as his solicitors and counsel respectively. 

"This is his (Najib) right to do so but he cannot, after having made that decision, turn around and say that his new lawyers are not ready to proceed with the hearing of the appeals.

"The new lawyers, too, having accepted the brief, are not entitled to say that they need more time to prepare, knowing full well that the dates had been fixed well in advance," Tengku Maimun said, adding that the request for the adjournment and the grounds in support thereof were neither cogent nor reasonable.

Najib changed his legal team just 21 days ahead of the appeal, appointing Hisyam as his lead counsel and law firm Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners’ (ZIST) partners Liew Teck Huat and M Rueben as his new solicitors for the appeal.

On July 26, Najib discharged with immediate effect Messrs Shafee & Co, led by Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, from representing him in his final appeal.

He is currently out on bail of RM2 million with two sureties pending his appeal.

When met by reporters after the proceedings, Najib said he was shocked and bitterly disappointed with today's ruling.