Zaid Ibrahim to pursue the judge’s conflict of interest route

(FMT) – It was not too long ago that Zaid Ibrahim and Najib Razak were in opposite corners.

Zaid’s 2015 blog post, titled “Rally Behind Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad”, saw him being charged with making an offensive statement against Najib, who was then the prime minister.

He was acquitted upon appeal, and this happened after the Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan defeated Najib’s Barisan Nasional in the 14th general election.

Nearly seven years after the blog post, Zaid and Najib have a date in court again. But this time, the former law minister is in Najib’s corner as the Pekan MP appeals his SRC International conviction in the Federal Court.

The appeal will be heard in less than a fortnight.

Najib has roped in Zaid’s law firm to take over from lawyer Shafee Abdullah.

Zaid’s involvement in Najib’s case caught many by surprise though he has, in recent weeks, spoken of the importance of a fair trial for the one-time BN chief.

It is a move that has not gone down too well with some. A few have called Zaid an “opportunistic politician”, a peculiar label for someone who quit the Cabinet and has fallen out of favour with a number of his political bosses for speaking his mind.

When he resigned as law minister in 2008, he did so in protest against the government’s continued use of the Internal Security Act.

Regardless of how one views Zaid’s involvement in the trial, it is a clear indication that there is more to look forward to in the already drama-filled SRC International case.

Najib’s application for a postponement of the appeal hearing after his change of lawyers has been denied by the Federal Court, as was his application to bring in Jonathan Laidlaw, a Queen’s Counsel, to represent him at that stage.

On Aug 15, on the first day of Najib’s appeal case at the Federal Court, the judges will decide on his application to adduce fresh evidence, something that could well decide the outcome of the case.

These include documents Najib says prove his argument of a conflict of interest on the part of judge Nazlan Ghazali, the High Court judge who convicted him.

Najib claims that the documents, which include minutes of a meeting and emails, show that Nazlan, in a former capacity as general counsel and company secretary of Maybank, knew about matters related to Najib’s defence.

He is also seeking to admit evidence from four Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers who had investigated Nazlan over the alleged conflict of interest.

Earlier, Najib had failed to adduce other new evidence in the Court of Appeal, which his defence said then was fundamental to a fair trial.

Whether the apex court will allow new evidence to be admitted remains to be seen, but Zaid’s involvement in the case will make for an interesting closure to the SRC International case.