Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak prays with his supporters before entering a court room at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur. -Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Razak's lead counsel today complained that they were given only 21 days to prepare for his defence since he was ordered to do so on Nov 11.

Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the timeframe was inadequate to prepare effectively for the defence case.

He said out of the 21 days, lawyers in his team were also engaged in various other matters involving the former prime minister in other courts.

"What would have needed several months was effectively relegated to 11 clear days, including the weekends where Najib was able to meet with his solicitors and counsel for the purposes of the defence case preparation," he said.

Shafee added that some of the counsels in his team, including himself, have not slept for 48 hours.

He said this in his opening statement of the defence case where Najib is accused of misappropriating SRC International funds.

The senior counsel also lamented that the defence was only able to interview seven of the 66 witnesses offered.

"Nonetheless and given the serious consequences to his liberty, Najib has used his best endeavours to prepare for the defence case in the circumstances.

"He shall today take the stand as the first defence witness," he said.

Najib is facing three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and one count of abuse of power over funds amounting to RM42 million linked to SRC International.

He is also facing three money laundering charges over the same fund. He faces up to 20 years' jail and fine for the offences.