Najib fails in bid to appoint British lawyer for final conviction appeal

Ray Sherman and Noah Lee
2022.07.21
Kuala Lumpur
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Najib fails in bid to appoint British lawyer for final conviction appeal Former Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks to reporters after attending court proceedings at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, May 20, 2021.
[S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak cannot have a foreign lawyer represent him in his final appeal hearing next month against his conviction in a case related to the 1MDB financial scandal, a court ruled Thursday.

Malaysian attorneys are “more than capable” of handling the ex-PM’s appeal against his 12-year prison sentence for corruption, the Kuala Lumpur High Court said.

“I agree with the honorable Attorney-General, the learned Deputy Public Prosecutors, the Bar Council, and the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee that the appeal is one that can quite competently be handled by local advocates and solicitors,” Judge Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid said.

“As such, the [originating motion] is hereby dismissed,” he added.

Najib’s counsel, Farhan Shafee, told BenarNews afterwards that he would file an appeal at the Federal Court against Thursday’s decision.

Najib had wished to appoint a British lawyer to appear as lead counsel in the final appeal against his conviction and sentencing for corruption in a case to do with SRC International, a subsidiary of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad. The appeal is set to be heard at the Federal Court for 10 days, starting on Aug. 15.

Najib, a member of parliament from the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO), is out on bail pending his appeal.In July 2020, the Kuala Lumpur High Court found him guilty of seven charges, including abuse of power, criminal breach of trust, and money laundering, in relation to 42 million ringgit (U.S.$9.4 million) belonging to SRC International that was in his bank accounts.

In addition to being sentenced to 12 years in prison, he was also fined 210 million ringgit (U.S. $47 million).Last December, the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and sentence.

Next month’s appeal hearing in the federal court is Najib’s last chance to secure a reprieve.

The 1MDB financial scandal, which became the opposition’s main election plank, was a major factor in UMNO’s 2018 electoral defeat, its first loss in more than 60 years. Malaysian and

U.S. prosecutors alleged that at least $4.5 billion (18.8 billion ringgit) was stolen from 1MDB in what they described as the “worst kleptocracy scandal in recent times.”

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