PUTRAJAYA (Jan 25): Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, the lead counsel for Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had on Tuesday (Jan 25) evening written to the secretary to Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and the Federal Court deputy registrar not to have the hearing of the former premier’s appeal to set aside his conviction and sentence at the Federal Court before June.
In his six-page letter, Shafee said it is not possible for the apex court to fix the hearing of the Pekan member of Parliament’s appeal in March this year, slightly less than two months after the Court of Appeal delivered its decision last Dec 8.
He added that parties have yet to receive the full records of appeal in relation to this case and noted that there are already 121 volumes of documents from the High Court and the Court of Appeal, indicating that these may increase in the apex court.
“Since parties have not been provided with the full record of appeal, the appellant cannot prepare a complete Petition of Appeal as we have to go through the appeal records,” read the letter by Shafee’s firm Messrs Shafee & Co dated Tuesday that was sighted by several media.
Following this, the senior lawyer indicated they would need an extension of time to file the petition of appeal.
A petition of appeal contains the grounds which Najib intends to appeal at the Federal Court. During the Court of Appeal hearing, his firm had filed 307 grounds of appeal against Justice Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali’s decision to convict and sentence the former premier to 12 years’ jail and RM210 million fine.
Shafee indicated that while the judgments of the High Court and Court of Appeal are in English, the court evidence and transcripts are not and hence, his team needs time to translate in its bid to get a Queen’s counsel (QC).
During Monday’s (Jan 24) case management, Shafee had indicated Najib’s intention of possibly hiring a QC to the final appeal.
In the letter, he said the former premier “needed the advice and expertise from an experienced QC who have dealt with these complex issues”.
“Many of the notes and documents are in the Malay language requiring some of the most critical ones to be ably translated into English for Shafee and our other senior counsel to effectively and physically brief the QC,” the letter stated.
Probe on Zeti and Nor Yakcop
In the letter, Shafee also touched on Najib’s application to adduce further evidence for his case and mentioned the ongoing probe on former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz and former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop.
He said his team has no reservations about the apex court hearing the application. The apex court had already fixed hearing dates on March 15 and 16 for the matter.
“Fixing the hearing date of the substantive appeal (the main appeal over conviction) now without hearing the appeal to adduce fresh evidence may deliver a wrong and adverse message to the appellant (Najib) and the general public for a variety of reasons including perception of justice,” he warned.
He added that if the apex court were to allow them to adduce additional evidence, it could change the appeal of the subject matter.
Citing the landmark decision made by the apex court in the Yahya Hussein Mohsen Abdulrab vs Public Prosecutor case, where Yahya Hussein was allowed to adduce further evidence at the Court of Appeal that ordered a re-trial of the matter, and the Federal Court bench that comprised Tengku Maimun and two other judges deciding on appeal against the re-trial and granting a discharge and acquittal of the Iranian, the senior counsel said it shows the necessity to have separate hearings and a reasonable time gap.
Thus, Shafee implored the apex court for consideration for an appropriate allocation of time for the main appeal to be heard.
“We gravely doubt any dates in April, May or June can be workable. However, the additional evidence appeal can be agreed on the current (March) date,” he said in the letter.
The Federal Court is the final appeal stage for the former premier to set aside his conviction, jail sentence and fine which was upheld by the Court of Appeal last Dec 8.
In upholding the conviction and sentence, the Court of Appeal described the case as “a national embarrassment”.