KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 30): Lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik has hinted that he may sue Malaysian Bar president Karen Cheah Yee Lynn for defamation in her remarks about him, in relation to the final appeal for former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case.
In a brief statement, Hisyam said that Cheah’s press release on Aug 19 “attacked” him and his legal team, and is highly defamatory.
“Her press release on Aug 19 attacked me and my legal team in the strongest of terms…a stance that is both mischievous and highly defamatory,” he said.
He also said that she “will be hearing” from him as well.
“She will have to justify her condemnation in a court of law,” he said.
This comes after Messrs Zaid Ibrahim, Suflan TH Liew and Partners — the firm that, together with Hisyam, represented Najib in his final appeal — sent Cheah a letter of demand.
The firm in the letter dated Aug 26 claimed that "the false and scurrilous imputations" in the statement constituted a grave and serious libel against it.
“By publishing and disseminating the press statement [which was issued to several media] on Aug 19, you intended to and did ensure that it received the most extensive coverage possible. This included coverage across the entire Malaysian public,” the letter said.
Hence, the firm is seeking a retraction of the statement, and also an apology within seven days (by Sept 2) from the date of the letter of demand, and if the firm does not receive a positive response in the timeline, it would initiate legal proceedings.
The firm is also seeking compensation, and an undertaking that Cheah or her agents would not repeat such statements again.
The "impugned statement" that the firm complained of carries the meanings that:
- as senior members of the Malaysian Bar, they deliberately acted unprofessionally by accepting the brief in Najib's case, with an improper agenda to abuse the court process;
- as senior members of the Malaysian Bar, they accepted the brief, with the ulterior motive of undermining the justice system by resorting to unscrupulous strategies;
- their clients' conduct was designed to pervert the course of justice;
- their conduct to accept the brief was designed to bring the legal profession into disrepute, and thereby undermining the dignity of the legal profession;
- as senior members of the Malaysian Bar, they are unprofessional, incompetent, and ignorant of the professional rules of practice and etiquette;
- they had no compunction in abusing the process of the court for their own ulterior motives;
- they acted in contempt of court; and
- they are not fit to practise as advocates and solicitors.
The firm had taken over from Messrs Shafee & Co for the final appeal in the Federal Court.
However, on Aug 19, Najib discharged Messrs Zaid Ibrahim, Suflan TH Liew and Partners, and the statement by Cheah was then issued.
Thereafter, the apex court bench led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat affirmed the High Court's findings that the former prime minister was guilty on all seven charges he faced, as well as the Court of Appeal's decision to uphold the High Court's findings.
The charges Najib was convicted of were one count of abuse of power with regard to Retirement Fund Inc's (KWAP) RM4 billion loans to SRC, and three counts each of criminal breach of trust and money laundering of RM42 million of the company's funds.
Hence, Najib is serving his sentence — 12 years' imprisonment — from last Tuesday (Aug 23), with a RM210 million fine that has yet to be paid.