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Aug 11 ruling for Najib's bid to disqualify Thomas' firm in RM1.9 million suit

The former prime minister is seeking a declaration that Tommy Thomas had committed misfeasance in public office.

3 minute read
Former prime minister Najib Razak. Photo: Bernama
Former prime minister Najib Razak. Photo: Bernama

The Court of Appeal has fixed Aug 11 to decide on Najib Razak's appeal to disqualify two lawyers from Messrs Tommy Thomas from representing former attorney-general (AG) Tommy Thomas in the former prime minister's RM1.9 million lawsuit.

The three-member panel of judges led by justice Hanipah Farikullah said they needed time to consider the submissions and case authorities put forward by parties in the suit.

The other two judges sitting with justice Hanipah were Azimah Omar and Azhahari Kamal Ramli.

In the proceeding today, the court heard submissions by Najib's lawyer, Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin and Thomas' counsel Alan Adrian Gomez.

Najib, 69, is appealing against the High Court's decision on Aug 19 last year in dismissing his application to disqualify Gomez and another lawyer, Mervyn Lai Wei Shiung, both partners in Messrs Tommy Thomas, from representing Thomas in his (Najib's) suit.

Najib is seeking a declaration that Thomas had committed misfeasance in public office and is claiming RM1.9 million in damages, including to cover consultation fees for the audit team to review documentation for preparation of facts to address the prosecution against him. 

He claimed that it was not appropriate to appoint Gomez and Lai to represent Thomas as they were from the same firm as Thomas.

Najib sued Thomas claiming that he had been charged in court in the case of 1MDB, International Petroleum Investment Company, abuse of power under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 and money laundering under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLATFPUAA 2001).

The former Pekan MP claimed that the charges against him were part of a move that had been planned in advance by Thomas and that it was also in line with the Pakatan Harapan government’s plan at the time.

On Nov 25 last year, the High Court allowed Thomas's application to strike out Najib's suit against him. Najib filed a notice of appeal on Dec 22 last year and the Court of Appeal has fixed Oct 4 for the hearing.

Earlier in the court, Firoz, in his submission, focused on Rule 5 of the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rule 197 which states that lawyers should not accept a case if it is difficult to maintain professional independence.

He questioned whether the lawyers from Messrs Tommy Thomas could maintain their professional independence, saying that members of the same firm should not represent partners, consultants or other lawyers in contentious matters.

Thomas was the founding member of the law firm. He was the AG from June 4, 2018, to Feb 28, 2020.

Firoz said Thomas had pecuniary interests at the law firm, adding that with the two lawyers from Messrs Tommy Thomas acting for him (Thomas), it would create a conflict of interest.

Gomez countered saying Thomas, as a consultant in the firm, had no pecuniary interest in the firm.

He said the lawsuit filed against Thomas was for alleged misfeasance in public office when he was the AG and not as a partner of the firm, adding that there was no conflict of interest which prevented them from representing Thomas as they were not involved in the 1MDB charges which were the heart of Najib's lawsuit.

Najib was present at the appeal hearing today. His wife, Rosmah Mansor, and son, Mohamad Nazifuddin, were also present.

Also representing Najib in the appeal were lawyers Daniel Annamalai, Woo J Enn and Melody Tham Cheng Yee, while Lai and Haikaldin Mahyidin acted for Thomas.