Zaid fires back at ‘showman’ Shafee

KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyer Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has fired his salvo against Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah over the latter’s remarks that it was his firm’s incompetence that got Najib in hot soup during the SRC International Sdn Bhd final appeal.

Instead, Zaid said it was Muhammad Shafee’s incompetency that led Najib to his difficulties and this, in turn, led him to advise Najib’s team to change the former prime minister’s lawyer if they wanted a different outcome at the Federal Court level.

“And I said so in all honesty. You see, Muhammad Shafee is a showman. He is not a good lawyer.

ALSO READ: Shafee disses Najib’s other lawyers in his appeal

“But of course in the kingdom of the blind, he is king. But he is a showman,” Zaid said in a video posted to his Facebook page here on Friday (Jan 20).

The former law minister was responding to news reports on the SRC International review at the Federal Court on Thursday where Muhammad Shafee made a public diss to Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (ZIST).

ZIST took over Najib’s case in the final appeal at the Federal Court from Messrs Shafee & Co on July 25, 2022.

It engaged lawyer Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik as the lead counsel. However, as they failed to get an adjournment in the matter, ZIST was discharged by Najib mid-way through the appeal on Aug 19, 2022.

ALSO READ: Najib fails in attempt to remove judge

Zaid said Muhammad Shafee’s “scattergun approach” to Najib’s defence was the crux of the problem and the approach failed Najib miserably.

“So I suggested to Najib to change the lawyer… to focus on one particular issue which I thought was very important for Najib’s defence, which was conflict of interest (of the judge).

“I told them there is no need to look for Queen’s Counsel or barristers in England,” he said, adding that the best lawyers for such cases were from India due to similar experiences in money laundering cases.

Zaid said he was not to be blamed single handedly for changing Najib’s mind as it was a “collective decision”.

“That is how I got involved. Of course Muhammad Shafee was furious. He even refused to hand over the files until we got Najib to write a letter terminating his services,” Zaid said.

He admitted that his firm was “too hopeful” for the court to grant them an adjournment as they had just taken over the matter and insisted that they were not to be blamed.

“We did a good job, trying to reshape Najib’s approach and focus. We narrow it down to conflict of interest, adducing additional evidence… Nazlan’s role when he was in Maybank. We did our best within that five weeks,” he said.

Zaid also said the views expressed by Muhammad Shafee, if supported by Najib, had saddened him.

“If that’s the case then it is unfortunate. We did everything for him (Najib). But never mind, I cannot say too much. The case is still ongoing in February,” he said.

On Thursday (Jan 19), Muhammad Shafee said in his submissions at the Federal Court hearing of Najib’s SRC International review that Najib replaced him after he (Najib) was approached and advised by Zaid.

Muhammad Shafee said ZIST had never done criminal law in their career, especially complicated cases such as the SRC International Sdn Bhd case, and they had convinced Najib he would get an adjournment for the firm to study his appeal.

Najib is seeking to review the Federal Court’s decision of Aug 23, 2022 which upholds the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision to convict and sentence him to 12 years in jail and a RM210mil fine in the RM42mil SRC International case.

On Sept 6, last year, he applied for a review of the Federal Court’s decision, claiming a “miscarriage of justice” in his case.