KUALA LUMPUR,. Several lawyers polled by Malay Mail have downplayed the effect of the criminal charges against high-profile lawyer Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah’s reputation, after his arrest by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
The lawyers also said that Shafee’s charges will not affect the cases involving his client ? embattled former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak ? who is himself facing a series of corruption, power abuse, and breach of trust charges.
“He is innocent until proven guilty… He will still be a practicing lawyer and thus can represent Najib,” lawyer Rajsurian Pillai told Malay Mail.
Echoing Rajsurian, lawyer Lim Wei Jiet added the bail granted by the court means Shafee can still represent Najib in the current proceedings, and any other cases involving 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
“Until he is convicted and sentenced to jail, he has the right to carry out his professional duties and to earn a livelihood as a lawyer,” he said.
Similarly, lawyer Surendra Ananth said Shafee may only be struck off the roll as an advocate if he is convicted, under Section 94 of the Legal Profession Act 1976.
Shafee pleaded not guilty yesterday to two counts of money laundering under Section 4(1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act (AMLA) 2001, the same law that was also used to charge Najib previously.
He was released on RM1 million bail.
Shafee is leading the defence team of former prime minister Najib, who is charged with money laundering, abuse and criminal breach of trust stemming from RM42 million transferred to his accounts from a former 1MDB subsidiary.
The private lawyer had been appointed by fiat to lead the prosecution of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s second sodomy trial, which resulted in the latter’s conviction and five-year prison sentence.
An official from the Attorney-General’s Chambers provided Anwar with an affidavit last week showing Najib paid Shafee RM9.5 million for the effort, but the lawyer has insisted the sum was for representing Barisan Nasional in various election petitions.
The MACC froze Shafee’s bank accounts last week on suspicion that the funds may be related to the 1MDB corruption scandal.
Shafee has since accused authorities of intending to disrupt Najib’s defence by pursuing him over this matter.
But the lawyers said the MACC case has little bearing over Najib’s defence, and they also expressed confidence in Shafee to keep his personal charges and those of Najib separate.
Calling Shafee a professional, Rajsurian said the former has the option to recuse himself from representing Najib if he is not up to it.
“That is entirely up to Shafee’s capability as a senior counsel and Najib’s confidence in him despite his charges under AMLA. To each lawyer, their own,” Lim said, although he reserved comments over Najib’s defence.
Surendra also reiterated that Shafee is yet to be proven guilty and has only been charged, which should not affect Najib’s defence.
“Najib’s defence should be determined purely by reference to the relevant evidence in his criminal trial and the law, not the reputation of his counsel, whatever that reputation may be,” he said.