Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak on Tuesday (Aug 16) expressed disappointment after his last-ditch bid for a retrial was quashed by the country’s highest court.
“I am shocked and bitterly disappointed by the court’s decision,” said Najib, who is staring at a 12-year prison sentence at the end of this final appeal.
Speaking to reporters at the courthouse lobby in Putrajaya, the scandal-tainted former prime minister repeated his accusation that Judge Nazlan Ghazali, who in 2020 found him guilty of a string of corruption charges in a trial tied to the 1MDB financial scandal , was biased against him.
This accusation against Nazlan is the cornerstone of Najib’s eleventh-hour application to the Federal Court ahead of his final appeal to overturn the conviction, claiming the judge has a conflict of interest owing to his past employment at Maybank, which has had dealings with 1MDB.
The motion brought forth by the defence seeks to render the earlier trial and its verdict null and void by adducing “new” evidence suggesting Nazlan was biased in his judgment.
The panel of five top judges led by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, however, dismissed the motion.
“We are not convinced that Justice Nazlan made his findings based on anything other than the evidence on record,” the chief justice said.
This came after two and a half hours of deliberation by the judges after hearing submissions by Najib’s defence counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik and lead prosecutor V. Sithambaram on whether the “new” evidence carried any weight in the trial.
“We find that the applicant has failed to cross the high threshold [of the law]. In the circumstances, the motion is hereby dismissed,” the chief justice said.
The court also rejected a request by Najib’s lawyers to postpone the trial by four months so that they could have more time to prepare.
Lead counsel Hisyam, who took over from Najib’s original lawyer Shafee Abdullah on July 21, previously requested a similar postponement which was also denied.
Hisyam, a respected criminal lawyer, acknowledged that he had breached professional ethics by accepting a case he was not ready to represent, but asked for the court’s consideration, adding that he had never requested for any postponement in his four decades in the profession.
“I request for time to argue the main appeal,” he said.
The court, however, called out the defence for not being prepared and said Najib willingly dismissed his legal team of four years at the last moment when dates for the appeal had already been locked in.
“Justice cannot be unduly delayed. Justice delayed, in this case, is justice denied to other persons,” it said.
Sithambaram on Monday argued that the defence was deliberately engaging in delay tactics by introducing the motion ahead of the main appeal, calling the move a “mere fishing expedition” intended to delay the hearing.
Najib’s conviction means he is barred from contesting the coming general election, which is expected to be held earlier than the September 2023 deadline.
The hearing will continue on Thursday.