PUTRAJAYA (Aug 18): Datuk Seri Najib Razak suffered another major blow in the Federal Court on Thursday (Aug 18) morning, as his lead defence counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik shared his intent to discharge himself from representing the former premier in his final SRC International Sdn Bhd appeal.
In the same nature as to how the lawyer was appointed as Najib’s defence counsel, Hisyam, at the 11th hour, addressed the five-member bench led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, informing them of his intent to discharge himself.
As Thursday’s session before the Federal Court kicked off, Hisyam apologised to the bench, informing them that he was unable to continue to serve as Najib’s defence lawyer in the case, citing the scope and depth of the appeal.
“My apology is sincere and from the bottom of my heart. I am unable to act for this case…I was hopeful that the court would grant discretion in my favour because of the scope and depth of the appeal,” he said.
In view of this, Hisyam asked the Federal Court to review the defence’s application for an adjournment, and noted that if it is not provided, he will proceed with discharging himself as Najib’s lead counsel.
“I must emphasise that the [application for an] adjournment was done in good faith…under these circumstances, I pray that this court review the earlier decision and allow it. However, in the event that my ladies and my lords aren’t inclined to give me time, I pray that I be discharged as the counsel, a prayer that will sadden me. I sincerely hope that my request will be granted,” he said.
Tengku Maimun then said that the bench had already given their grounds of judgement on Tuesday, denying his request for an adjournment of three to four months.
She then warned him of the implications of his actions.
“We reiterate that we have given the broad grounds of judgement (for the adjournment). Are you aware that as a superior court, we have the inherent jurisdiction to administer justice? And that our jurisdiction is to ensure that the court functions.
“Do you accept that? Your client will be unrepresented. If you discharge, you will leave him unrepresented. Do you accept that?” she asked him.
Hisyam replied that he accepted everything that Tengku Maimun was saying but under the circumstances, he will not be able to act in the appeal if not given time.
Tengku Maimun then told him that he needs permission from the court to discharge himself.
“But you still need our permission to discharge yourself,” she said, further adding that he should have filed an affidavit with the court, and informed all parties through the affidavit of his intention to discharge himself, as per the standard court protocol.
“Counsels should not just walk away without telling the court. In our mind, you can handle the case, and you have many counsels available,” she said sternly.
There was then a brief moment of silence between the lawyer and the judge, before she asked: “You are not going to submit. So what are we going to do?”
Hisyam said he leaves it with the court to decide.
Lead prosecutor Datuk V Sithambaram said that he had no objection in the matter.
Tengku Maimun then called for the court to stand down for a brief recess, before deciding on the next course of action.
Hisyam’s move to discharge himself came on the heels of Najib’s bids to adduce fresh evidence as well as for a three- to four-month postponement being dismissed by the five-member Federal Court quorum.
Just two days prior, Hisyam told the press that the defence would give serious thought and consideration as to their next course of action. However, it appears that this culminated in a move to discharge himself.
Messrs Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners and Hisyam was hired at the 11th hour prior to the final appeal before the Federal Court, after Najib dismissed his initial counsels Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Harvinderjit Singh in late July.
Najib is before the Federal Court to have his final appeal in the SRC matter be heard. To recap, the former premier was found guilty on July 28, 2020 by the High Court of all seven charges in relation to SRC, a verdict which was upheld by the Court of Appeal on Dec 8 last year.
The charges involved one count of abuse of power in approving RM4 billion in loans from Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) to SRC, and three counts each of criminal breach of trust and money laundering of RM42 million of SRC funds. As a result of being found guilty of these charges, the High Court sentenced Najib to 12 years in jail and a fine of RM210 million.