Bar Council President going to be taught a lesson

(Focus Malaysia) – FORMER prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lead counsel in his SRC International RM42 mil corruption case, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, has hinted at suing Malaysian Bar president Karen Cheah Yee Lynn for defamation.

This comes just days after lawyers Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, Liew Teck Huat and M. Rueben from Messrs Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (a firm Najib both appointed and discharged at the eleventh hour) threatened to sue Cheah over her Aug 19 statement, which they said contained “false and malicious” remarks against them.

In her statement, Cheah said the Malaysian Bar was “aghast” over the justice system being “abused and brought to disrepute” through “frantic” acts and the numerous attempts to postpone the hearing of Najib’s SRC International final appeal.

She cited Hisyam’s application to discharge himself from acting for Najib; Hisyam’s “defiance” in refusing to proceed with submissions on the appeal despite the Federal Court requesting them to proceed and; the “sudden” discharge of Zaid, Liew and Rueben by Najib.

However, she did not name Hisyam, only the trio.

“The various attempts to undermine the justice system through such unscrupulous strategies are a perversion of our justice system and an abuse of the court process,” Cheah added.

“The advocates and solicitors involved in such acts have conducted themselves unprofessionally and would have to face disciplinary action.”

In a brief statement today, Hisyam said Cheah’s statement “attacked” him and his legal team in the “strongest terms”, adding that this was both “mischievous” and “highly defamatory”.

According to Malaysiakini, he said Cheah would have to justify her remarks in court and that she would be hearing from him soon, hinting at a defamation civil action.

It was reported yesterday (Aug 29) that Zaid, Liew and Rueben demanded that Cheah make a full and unequivocal retraction and apologise to them by Friday (Sept 2), failing to do so, they would commence legal action against her.

“Reckless disregard”

The three lawyers contended that several paragraphs in her press statement demonstrated a “reckless disregard” as to whether the imputations complained of were true.

They alleged that Cheah suggested, among others, that they “deliberately acted unprofessionally”, “with an improper agenda to abuse the process of the court” and their “conduct was designed to pervert the course of justice”.

In doing so, she implied that the trio were “unprofessional, incompetent and ignorant of the professional rules of practice and etiquette” and had acted “in flagrant contempt of court”, according to the trio.

On July 26, Najib benched his long-time lawyer Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s firm and appointed Zaid’s law firm to lead the defence in his SRC International final appeal.

Multiple attempts were made to postpone the hearing on the grounds that the new legal team needed more time to prepare themselves for the case. However, the Federal Court repeatedly rejected such requests.

This prompted Najib’s lead counsel, Hisyam, to move to discharge himself, which the five-member apex court bench led by the chief justice denied as well. The next day, Najib discharged Messrs Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners from representing him.

On Tuesday (Aug 23), the Federal Court rejected Najib’s final appeal in the SRC International RM42 mil corruption case and upheld his seven charges of power abuse, criminal breach of trust and money laundering, RM210 mil fine and 12-year jail sentence.

The Pekan MP is currently serving his sentence in the Kajang Prison.