PUTRAJAYA: The sole dissenting judge in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s review application today held that it was unfair for the former prime minister to pay the price for the mistakes done by his counsel in the SRC International Sdn Bhd appeal hearing.
Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli, who chaired a five-member bench, said Najib’s counsel (Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik) had been denied the opportunity to submit as said by the latter that he was not prepared to do so after taking the case at the last minute.
“The counsel did not submit after informing the panel of judges that he was unprepared to do so. This led to only one party submitting before the earlier panel, which was the deputy public prosecutor Datuk V.Sithambaram.
“The applicant (Najib) was not heard at all. The applicant is at a great and substantial injustice. He was in a disadvantaged state, as he was not represented during the appeal. It was unfair that the applicant was paying the highest price for the mistakes done by his counsel.
“The applicant’s only interest is to see his lawyer act for him in his best interest, nothing more and nothing less,” the judge said when allowing Najib’s application to review the decision of the previous panel of the Federal Court which upheld his conviction and 12 years jail sentence and fine for misappropriation of RM42 million in SRC International funds.
In the 4-1 majority judgment, the four judges who dismissed the former prime minister’s application were Federal Court judges Datuk Vernon Ong Lam Kiat, Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang and Datuk Nordin Hassan and Court of Appeal judge Datuk Abu Bakar Jais.
In his decision, Justice Abdul Rahman said that the previous bench should have let the applicant (Najib) address the bench first before the prosecution made its submissions.
“This did not happen, the prosecution was allowed to submit for two full days...this was surreal,” said the judge, adding that the conviction against the accused should be quashed as there was no legal representation.
Justice Abdul Rahman opined that an adjournment should have been granted, not to scuttle the case, but to allow for the former premier to find a new counsel.
“The applicant (Najib) has the right to effective counsel. In the present case, the earlier panel had denied the applicant the right to have effective counsel. The counsel was shackled.
“The previous panel had said that it had given Najib’s counsel four months to prepare. It was not true. The four months were for Messrs Shafee and Co (Najib’s previous counsel). They were not for his new counsel Hisyam. Hence, the application for review for the adjournment must be granted,“ said Justice Abdul Rahman.
Najib, 69, who was in the dock, was seen nodding his head in agreement with the judge.
On July 28, 2020, the then High Court Judge Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, who is now a Court of Appeal judge, sentenced Najib to 10 years’ jail on each of the three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and each of the three counts of money laundering, and 12 years’ jail and RM210 million fine, in default five years’ jail, in the case of abusing his position.
On Dec 8, 2021, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision and rejected Najib’s appeal to set aside his conviction and jail sentence, as well as the fine.
On Aug 23, 2022, a five-member bench of the Federal Court led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat dismissed the appeal by the former Pekan MP to overturn the conviction and sentence. Najib began his 12-year jail term in Kajang prison on the same day.
Najib then filed the review application to quash the earlier Federal Court’s verdict. Besides that, he had also filed for a royal pardon in September last year.
On Jan 5, this year, he also filed a petition before the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) to ask for a release from prison or retrial of his SRC International case following an appeal hearing at the Federal Court which he claimed had serious defects and was contrary to the rules of international justice. -Bernama