Najib will play his last card on Monday

(The Star) – After a four-year court battle, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his new lawyers will be up against their greatest challenge when the SRC International Sdn Bhd case enters its final stage on Monday.

There will be no more appeals, no more reprieves.

This is Najib’s last avenue to appeal his conviction and sentence after he was found guilty by the High Court on July 28, 2020.

He had been slapped with seven charges of criminal breach of trust (CBT), money laundering and abuse of position involving RM42mil of SRC funds.

After his conviction and sentence of 12 years’ jail and a RM210mil fine was upheld in the Court of Appeal on Dec 8, 2021, his final appeal at the Federal Court will be heard from Monday to Aug 19 and then from Aug 23-26.

Najib may be looking for a new defence strategy.

He had tried to get Queen’s Counsel Jonathan Laidlaw to represent him in this final appeal but that was turned down in July.

He then engaged a new law firm, Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (ZIST), to represent him after discharging Messrs Shafee & Co.

Firm partner and lawyer Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said the firm had advised Najib to “abandon certain propositions previously put forward”, giving way to a reset in Najib’s defence arguments.

“We are purely focused on constitutional principles, the rule of law, principles of natural justice and the specific legal and factual issues in the application for retrial and the appeal proper,” he said in a statement yesterday.

The earlier approach, which saw some mudslinging against High Court judge Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali (now a Court of Appeal judge), looks to have been set aside, with Najib withdrawing his claims of corruption against the judge.

Despite an earlier threat by the new lawyers to pull out if a postponement is not granted, both sides are expected to give their best in their arguments on why Najib should or should not be freed or if he should get a retrial.

Najib has filed 94 grounds on why the Court of Appeal had erred in its decision to uphold the High Court’s conviction and sentence.

It is believed that Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat herself will be heading the panel as she had previously headed a five-man appeal in an interlocutory application in the appeal.

It is understood that during a case management on Aug 10, the first order of business fixed for the day will be Najib’s application to amend a motion he filed to adduce fresh evidence in the case.

This will be followed by the hearing on the motion itself.

“If the motion is dismissed, the court will proceed with the main appeal proper,” said a source.

After the conclusion of the arguments for the motion for fresh evidence, Najib’s team will again make an oral application before the court to adjourn the main appeal.

Their application via a letter to the court to adjourn the main appeal was rejected last month.

However, if it is rejected again, the parties will have no choice but to go ahead with the appeal.