Crime & Courts

Judge recuses self from hearing Najib's appeal against ex-AG

PUTRAJAYA: Court of Appeal judge Datuk Azizah Nawawi has recused herself from hearing the appeal of Datuk Seri Najib Razak's RM1.9 million lawsuit against former Attorney-General, Tan Sri Tommy Thomas.

Azizah, who chaired a three-member bench, said she decided to recuse herself from hearing the appeal as her husband Datuk Nik Suhaimi Nik Sulaiman used to work directly under the respondent (Thomas).

Nik Suhaimi was the head of the former Attorney-General's Chambers (A-GC) appeal and trial division before he went into mandatory retirement in Feb this year.

Earlier, Azizah made the disclosure at the outset of the proceeding and asked both parties if they had any objections to her presence in the case.

Najib's counsel, Datuk Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin asked for a short stand down to seek instructions from the former prime minister regarding the matter.

When the case resumed, the lawyer said he had been instructed to request Azizah's recusal but did not specify the reasons.

Thomas' counsel Alan Adrian Gomez said the respondent had no objection for Azizah to lead the bench.

Azizah, later, recused herself stating that the case involved public interest.

"I decided to withdraw from hearing this case because my husband served directly under the respondent when he was with the AGC.

"The basis for this withdrawal is because it involves public interest," she said.

The other judges who also presided in the proceedings were Datuk See Mee Chun and Datuk Lim Chong Fong.

The proceeding was adjourned to a later date.

Najib, who is former Pekan member of parliament, is appealing the High Court's decision to dismiss his suit seeking RM1.9 million in damages and a declaration that Thomas had committed misfeasance in public office.

High Court Judge Datuk Ahmad Bache in his judgement said Najib's suit against Thomas constituted a collateral attack on the prosecution of all criminal charges against the former.

He said Najib had prematurely launched a civil action based on criminal charges which had yet to be determined in the criminal court.

Ahmad said the causes of action of misfeasance in public office and the allegation of malicious process were not sustainable and a non-starter because Thomas did not even conduct the prosecution of Najib's criminal cases.

In his statement of claim, Najib said he had been wrongfully accused in court over the four 1MDB-related cases.

He claimed the charges against him were part of a move planned in advance by Thomas, which was also in line with the then-Pakatan Harapan government's agenda at the time.

Najib claimed that in 2015, Thomas had met Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to discuss Najib's alleged wrongdoing and mismanagement involving 1MDB funds and also advised Dr Mahathir to take civil and criminal action against him over his involvement in 1MDB.

Najib is currently serving a prison sentence after the Federal Court upheld his conviction and sentence of 12 years' jail and RM210 million fine, on being found guilty of embezzling RM42 million in funds belonging to SRC International.

Najib is now on trial for multiple corruption charges involving the 1MDB financial scandal, audit tampering, and money laundering.

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