Crime & Courts

Drama unfolds as UK-based counsel seeks role in Najib's corruption hearing

PUTRAJAYA: A drama unfolded during the hearing of United Kingdom-based King's Counsel Jonathan Laidlaw's appeal to be advocate and solicitor for Datuk Seri Najib Razak's corruption trial involving SRC International Bhd.

This after Najib's lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah applied to recuse two presiding judges – Datuk Nordin Hassan and Datuk Abu Bakar Jais – from hearing the proceedings, citing their prior involvement in similar matters concerning Najib.

Shafee, at the outset of the hearing, told the three-member panel chaired by Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof, that Nordin and Abu Bakar had engaged in some exchange with him during the previous hearing relating to the SRC International case.

However, both Nordin and Abu Bakar denied Shafee's contention, stating that they did not have any exchange with the senior lawyer.

Shafee then informed the panel that he had documented the conversation based on the Court Recording and Transcription (CRT) system, which he obtained from the Judicial Department.

This prompted Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram to interject and dismiss Shafee's contention, stating that the court had declined the request for the CRT.

"I am sorry my lord but our request for the CRT was declined by the court.

"I wonder how Shafee can get it (CRT)," he said.

CRT is a technological application adopted by the court to facilitate the recording of the audio and video of the proceedings in the open courts.

Shafee, after consulting with his team of solicitors, then apologised to the court, acknowledging that he was mistaken, as his record of the conversation was sourced from his own office.

"The recording was conducted by four solicitors from my firm who were present in court during the proceedings.

"Datuk Sitham (Sithambaram) is correct... nobody got it (CRT).

"We asked for it but it was declined. Thus, we relied on our own recording and documented it in writing weeks before today's hearing," he said.

The court, however, shot down Najib's application (to recuse the judges), stating that there was no merit in the application.

Laidlaw had filed an appeal to the Federal Court after the High Court rejected his application to be admitted as an advocate and solicitor on July 21 last year.

Najib, 69, is serving a 12-year jail sentence after the Federal Court upheld his conviction, jail sentence and RM210 million fine for misappropriation of RM42 million SRC International funds on Aug 23, last year.

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