incompetent judge who wanted to free the crook...
Federal Court, the highest court and the final appellate court in Malaysia, has rejected a bid by jailed former Prime Minister Najib Razak to review his corruption conviction. Technically, while he can seek a review again, his review which failed today (March 31) effectively ends his judicial attempts to challenge the guilty verdict, which saw the crook sent to jail on August 23, 2022.
Last August, despite his best effort to put on a brave face and remained calm, a standing Najib fell into his seat in the dock upon hearing that the Federal Court upheld his guilty verdict, smashing his final appeal to pieces. It was the gloomiest moment for the 69-year-old ex-PM and his family that saw wife Rosmah, who herself might go to jail too, wiping her tears, accompanied by their children.
Prior to Friday’s review, all 3 courts and 9 judges (High Court – 1, Court of Appeal – 3, Federal Court – 5) had delivered unanimous guilty verdicts on Najib. He has been found guilty of all 7 charges – 1 count of abuse of power, 3 counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT), and 3 counts of money laundering – involving RM42 million stolen from SRC International Sdn Bhd (a subsidiary of 1MDB).
From the beginning, the success rate is almost zero for a review of the Federal Court’s decision. If a review could easily reverse the highest court’s decision, it will show that the apex court is unreliable and incompetent in the first place. To reverse its own decision is like shooting its own foot. Worse, if the review fails, it will lend more credence that Najib is guilty as hell.
A review will see a new panel of judges to hear whether Najib had suffered injustice or any abuse of process. However, Najib’s self-proclaimed hotshot attorney – Shafee Abdullah – has been selling to his client false hopes, one after another, that he had incredible chances of winning. After today’s review decision, Najib, currently serving 12 years’ jail, will remain in prison.
Mr Najib can no longer challenge the conviction in court, but he has applied for a royal pardon which if successful could see him released without serving the full 12-year term. But it is not as simple as running to the Palace and asks King Sultan Abdullah, who has a close relationship with him, to issue the royal pardon. The pardon process is not a walk in the park.
Even though the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) has the power to pardon, the monarch can only act after having consulted or been recommended by the Pardons Board. However, it’s the Prime Minister’s Department that prepares a report for the Pardons Board. And the board shall consider any written opinion from the Attorney General. But both the PM and A.G. are not Najib-friendly.
Yes, effective 1994, after the Constitution was amended during Mahathir administration to clip the power of the royal house, it was no longer the King’s personal discretion to decide on the granting or refusal of a pardon. The Pardons Board consists of the King, the Attorney General, Minister of Federal Territories and three other members appointed by the Malay Ruler.
In essence, the King cannot pardon any subject without the “consent” of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who has promised to crack down on corruption and reform the corrupt systems. The best part is Najib has “four more” criminal court cases, all related to 1MDB scandal. To add salt to Najib’s wound, royal pardons are only granted for criminal cases, but not bankruptcy, which he also faces.
In dismissing Najib’s application to review his conviction today, Federal Court Judge Vernon Ong Lam Kiat said a five-member panel voted 4-1 that there was no miscarriage of justice in the top court’s decision last year. Judge Ong said – “In the final analysis, and having regard to all circumstances, we are constrained to say that the applicant (Najib) was the author of his own misfortunes.”
Despite Najib’s scoreboard of a 13-1 defeat, the sole dissenting judge in the Federal Court’s 4-1 decision was a disgrace. It’s not about the freedom of the judiciary, but how Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abdul Rahman Sebli had argued to free and drop all criminal charges on Najib. He claimed that there was a miscarriage of justice when Najib was left without legal representation.
Chief Judge Abdul Rahman, who chaired the 5-member bench, said it was wrong to prevent Najib’s then-lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik from discharging himself from representing his client. He said it was unfair for the former prime minister to pay the price for the mistakes of his counsel in the SRC International appeal hearing. Has the judge been sleeping on the job?
Even before the Federal Court upheld Najib’s guilty verdict on August 23, 2022, his supporters were instigated to the extent of waging war against the judiciary – threatened to kill Chief Justice Tengku Maimun if she sentenced the former premier to prison. It was no longer about a threat to the judicial independence, but a threat to both the security and public order – a national security threat.
The threat of bloodshed came after the arrogant Najib and his overly-confident lawyers bet – and lost – that the Federal Court would give in to at least one of two demands – a fresh retrial based on dubious accusation that High Court Judge Nazlan had committed serious conflict of interest when presiding over the SRC International trial, or agree to postpone the final appeal by three or four months.
Chief Justice Maimun, however, said Najib had failed to show the relevance of the dubious new evidence against his corruption charges. She said – “It is not as if Justice Nazlan’s previous role (as Maybank general counsel) was a secret that his subsequent involvement came as a surprise”. It was a slap in the face of both Najib and the entire defence team.
Of course, it was a delay tactic orchestrated by Najib’s highly paid top legal team to keep him out of the prison till after the 15th General Election. The strategy was to intimidate – even change the judges – once Najib’s corrupt political party, UMNO, wins at the polls. There was no other option to escape jail as all evidence – both domestic and foreign – was stacked against him.
Tengku Maimun and her fellow judges, after observing Najib’s trial since 2018, knew all the dirty tricks that the crook would unleash. So when the court ruled against both demands, all hell broke loose. In fact, a week before the day of the final appeal, Najib’s lawyers had pre-emptively threatened to withdraw if the Federal Court refuses to grant the postponement.
Lecturing Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners, who in turn appointed Hisyam Teh Poh Teik as lead counsel, Tengku Maimun deliberately invoked Rule 6(a) of the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978 which stipulated that an advocate and solicitor must not accept a brief he is reasonably certain of not being able to appear and represent the client on the required day.
As expected, Najib’s newly appointed top lawyer applied to discharge himself from acting as the ex-premier counsel. Refused to be bullied, Tengku Maimun boldly rejected the request, reminding him of his duty to his client after accepting the appointment. Panicked, Hisyam agreed to argue based on the previous submissions filed in the Court of Appeal by Najib’s previous lead counsel
However, realizing it was a mistake because Najib’s plan was to delay the final appeal by hook or by crook, Hisyam suddenly made a U-turn and said he will not be filing any submissions at all to defend his client, arguing that he was not prepared because the court had refused to grant him more time. Nevertheless, the Chief Justice ordered the prosecution to present its case first.
For the first time in the country’s judiciary system, a defence lawyer and his client had conspired to create a situation where the client has no legal representation. The disgraceful lawyers – Zaid Ibrahim and Hisyam Teh – willingly sacrificed their reputation in order to help Najib blackmail the Federal Court because the crook was not ready to go to prison.
Hilariously, Najib and his former lead counsel Shafee had previously expressed confidence when they submitted 94 grounds in the Petition of Appeal on why the former prime minister should be freed of the charges of misappropriating RM42 million in SRC International. What happened to the secret recipe that would prove Najib’s innocence? Why can’t Hisyam use it to argue his case?
The game was to create a perception that Najib had been denied a fair trial, despite the fact that the convicted criminal had enjoyed 4 years of excessive freedom, including travelling overseas to visit his daughter. The drama king started whining, crying and bitching that he was suddenly “defenceless” in his final appeal against his conviction just to create an illusion that he has been victimized by the courts.
At about 4:06pm (Aug 23, 2022), Mr Najib gambled his remaining two days of freedom by choosing not to make any submission. It would take just 20 minutes (4:26pm) later for the 5 judges to unanimously uphold his conviction and send him to prison. At about 6:10pm, Najib made history – becoming the first former PM to enter the gates of the Kajang Prison to serve his 12-year prison sentence.
Not only defence lead counsel Hisyam Teh’s refusal to make any submissions for his client was a tactical mistake, as it would be seen as disrespectful to the Court Institution, the open challenge was essentially a declaration of war against the Chief Justice and her fellow judges. But the worst part was not Najib’s efforts to intimidate and bully Tengku Maimun by refusing to make submissions.
The worst and dumbest part was when Shafee suddenly appeared on Najib’s Judgement Day, after Najib told the court that he had already fired his former lead counsel. It confirmed the court’s suspicion that the dismissal of Shafee and the appointment of Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners, who in turn appointed Hisyam Teh Poh Teik as lead counsel, has been a delay tactic all along.
It lends credence to Chief Justice Tengku Maimun’s decision to throw away the defence lawyer’s repetitive request for postponement. It was like how a student plays truant over a fake claim that he was down with fever, only to appear in school and happily smoking with his classmates. In truth, Najib had eight months to prepare his final appeal, but chose to delay it with various dirty tricks instead.
From the beginning, Hisyam, supposedly a renowned lawyer in the field of criminal litigation, was hired by Najib at the last minute to do only one thing – to delay the final appeal with the argument that he needed 3 to 4 months to enable him to make the best preparations. When the delay ploy didn’t work, the lawyer threatened to withdraw, leaving Najib defenceless.
If indeed Najib had lost confidence in his self-declared hotshot lead lawyer Shafee Abdullah in the first place, he should have fired him after he lost in the High Court, and not continued paying the useless attorney for his appeal at the Court of Appeal, and certainly not sacking him only at the eleventh hour (July 2022) before the final appeal. His Bollywood drama sucks.
Yet, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abdul Rahman Sebli chose to foolishly swallow the hook, line and sinker. What if Najib keep changing his lawyers, who in turn will ask for a 4-month postponement, and repeat the delay drama indefinitely? The judge should not allow some clowns waste the court’s time, let alone set a bad precedence that the Federal Court can be blackmailed in the future.
If Abdul Rahman could not even understand such simple logic, he should be sent back to law school or early retirement. Was he trying to say out of 14 judges involved in the trial, he was the only clever judge – cleverer than Tengku Maimun? Even a gardener and the school janitor knew it was nothing but a delay tactic by the despicable crook and his overrated band of lawyers. - FT