Shafee is more qualified, says prosecution in objecting to Najib’s bid to bring in UK lawyer for SRC appeal

Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex June 8, 2022. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex June 8, 2022. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

By Ida Lim

Monday, 13 Jun 2022 5:07 PM MYT

KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 — Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is “more equipped” than London-based lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw to represent former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the latter’s final appeal against his conviction and sentencing to imprisonment and RM210 million fine in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case, the prosecution has said.

In an affidavit filed today at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur by deputy public prosecutor Mohd Ashrof Adrin Kamarul on behalf of the prosecution, it objected to the bid by the Queen’s Counsel from London on Najib’s instructions to seek to be the lead defence lawyer for Najib in the SRC appeal.

In the affidavit, Ashrof said that the issues in Najib’s SRC case are not difficult or complex issues, and disagreed that Laidlaw had the relevant special qualification or experience relevant to the SRC appeal that Malaysian lawyers would not already have.

Ashrof pointed out that Laidlaw does not have experience in conducting criminal trials or criminal appeals under the Malaysian laws — which Najib was charged and convicted under — in Malaysian courts, and that this UK-based lawyer is not well-versed with local laws involved in the SRC appeal at the Federal Court.

“The applicant’s experience in conducting cases outside Malaysia does not provide the applicant with the special qualification or experience required to conduct these appeals under domestic laws,” Ashrof argued, referring to Laidlaw as the applicant.

Ashrof said that Laidlaw had failed to meet the requirements under Section 18(1) of the Legal Profession Act to be allowed to practise in Malaysia in order to defend Najib in the latter’s final appeal over the misappropriation of more than RM42 million of SRC funds.

Ashrof pointed out that there are local lawyers who have the special expertise — which Laidlaw claimed to have — who would be able to defend Najib, including Najib’s own Malaysian lead defence lawyer Shafee over the last three years since the trial begun at the High Court.

“It is indeed strange for the applicant to contend that there are no local lawyers to defend the said charges faced by the appellant when Tan Sri Dato Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah himself and his team defended the appellant at the High Court to the Federal Court,” he said.

“It is thus an irony to say that there are no local lawyers with special qualification or experience when compared to the applicant to defend these charges when the applicant himself has no experience in arguing these charges before the Malaysian courts,” he added.

Under Section 18(1), the High Court may admit a person – who would have been eligible to be admitted as a lawyer in Malaysia if he was a Malaysian citizen or permanent resident – to practise as a lawyer here, for the purpose of any one case and if certain conditions are fulfilled.

The conditions required to be fulfilled under Section 18(1) are if this person has – in the court’s opinion – special qualifications or experience not available among lawyers in Malaysia for the purpose of that particular case, and also if he has been instructed by a lawyer in Malaysia to act for that case.

Ashrof also pointed out that Laidlaw does not have the Bahasa Malaysia qualification as required under Section 11(2) of the Legal Profession Act to succeed in his application under Section 18(2) to be able to represent Najib.



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