Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah has admitted to receiving RM9.5 million from former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, but said the payment was merely part of over RM20 million in fees owed to him for legal services rendered toward Umno and BN.
He said he had been providing litigation services for BN since the 1990s without any specific retainers during the terms of previous prime ministers, from Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Najib.
"Cases that were assigned to me and my firm ranged from election petitions to other serious litigations involving Umno and BN. I remember undertaking litigation works on behalf of Umno and some other clients in relation to the mega damages in defamation matters,” Shafee said.
Over this time, he claimed he and his firm accrued many uncollected bills for legal services rendered, as no payment was forthcoming from Umno despite promises, with the exception of "some small disbursements."
This was until a "chance meeting" with Najib in Sept 2013, where he raised the issue of the unsettled fees.
He alleged: "...At that time I was in need of money to purchase a property from a friend who desperately needed to dispose of that property in order to purchase a new one for his family.
“Najib learned for the first time that I have not been paid by Umno for all these years since the time of Mahathir, and he inquired from me what would be the fees that had accumulated over the years since early 1990s.
"I told him the total fees would be in the region of not less than RM20 million, but I was not asking for all that," his statement read.
"I told him that I would be happy if he could settle about RM11 million worth of legal work in 46 election petition files, the subject matter of the years in 2004 and 2006.
"Najib, however, agreed to pay RM9.5 million as complete settlement of the legal fees of the 46 election petition matters, but he had asked me to rationalise the paperwork later."
Shafee added that he agreed to this as he was “made to understand that Najib was made responsible for handing (sic) the party's funds”.
"I had at that time absolutely no knowledge of the source of the payments to me by Najib," he said, further stating that this was explained to the MACC in the course of their investigations into 1MDB.
"I am a regular advocate and solicitor who works for fees. Why am I being scrutinised when I collect fees for my Umno/BN work?
"If you allow lawyers to be harassed like this under purported money laundering investigations, etc., the future of the legal profession is impeded. This is a phenomenon the world bodies of the legal profession are watching."
The statement comes following "new information" revealed by PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim that confirmed that Shafee had received two payments of RM4.3 million and RM5.2 million respectively from the former premier between 2013 and 2014.
The new evidence was submitted by a special task officer to the attorney-general in response to Anwar's appeal against his second sodomy conviction, which he later received a royal pardon for.
Anwar had argued at the Kuala Lumpur High Court that he was denied a fair trial because his prosecutor had received payment from Najib, who was his political rival. The appellate court is set to hear his appeal on Sept 14.
Below is Shafee's response to the allegation in full.
1. There have been allegations by many quarters regarding the RM9.5 million in two tranches of RM4.3 million and RM5.2 million in 2013 and 2014 respectively from Najib Abdul Razak's personal account in AmIslamic Bank Berhad when he was the prime minister.
2. One of these allegations is that these two payments were made as a reward for me to prosecute Anwar Ibrahim in the Sodomy II appeals at the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court. I have denied this allegation on record in an affidavit that I have affirmed on Aug 3, 2017 in the proceeding brought about by Anwar in his originating summons in the High Court of Kuala Lumpur vide WA-24-36- 06/2017. I still maintain that the averment was and is the truth.
3. For purposes of prosecuting the appeals, I had suggested to the then-attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail that I would undertake the assignment pro bono.
However, when Gani suggested that an agreement be entered into between the government of Malaysia and me for purposes of that assignment, I had suggested RM1 to be the formal consideration amount.
It was counter-suggested by Gani that an amount of RM1,000 be placed as consideration. This culminated in a written agreement dated July 19, 2013 reflecting the terms of my appointment as the ad hoc deputy public prosecutor (DPP) pursuant to a fiat. This document remains confidential as provided for therein.
4. Gani and Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria of the Attorney-General’s Chambers are fully aware of this. The then prime minister Najib was also fully aware of this agreement for me to undertake the assignment, virtually pro bono.
5. For purposes of record I have never taken a single cent from the government of Malaysia or anybody else in relation to my undertaking of the prosecution of the appeals. I must stress that even the RM1,000 was never claimed by me to date. This can be confirmed from Hanafiah himself.
6. As a background to this ad hoc appointment of mine, Najib was not keen with the idea of appointing me as the prosecutor by way of fiat for these appeals because he did not want to offend the then AG, Gani. In fact, he was most reluctant.
However, it was Dr Mahathir Mohamad who insisted that I be appointed as the special prosecutor in the Anwar appeals, as Mahathir did not have the confidence that the AGC would be able to competently manage the appeals.
This is probably due to the fact that the AGC had lost the Sodomy II case in the High Court. Further, they had lost earlier in the Federal Court the Sodomy I case.
I remember being summoned on or about June or July 2013 (or thereabouts) by Mahathir through Matthias Chang to attend a meeting with Mahathir at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya.
Soon, I learned that Najib, the prime minister, was also invited to meet Mahathir slightly earlier than the meeting between me and Mahathir. I learned subsequently that Mahathir had managed to persuade Najib to convince the attorney-general to appoint me by way of fiat as a special prosecutor in these appeals.
I was told of this after Najib had left the Perdana Leadership Foundation, by Mahathir himself. I learnt from Chang that my appointment as the special prosecutor was the first of the six demands Mahathir made to Najib at that meeting, for otherwise he would go against Najib.
Within a matter of days or so, I was communicated by the office of Mahathir and the Prime Minister’s Office that I should meet Gani for the purposes of the appointment as everything had been agreed to for my appointment.
I met Gani in the presence of Hanafiah. A written agreement has been drafted reflecting the terms of my appointment as mentioned earlier herein. This written agreement is within the knowledge of every concerned individuals who participated in this decision-making process and therefore there could not have been any misunderstanding that I should be paid any fees over and above the RM1,000.
7. I have acted for Umno, BN without any specific retainers during the terms of the previous prime ministers from Mahathir (as he then was), Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (as he then was) and Najib. During those terms, I acted very often for Umno, BN and sometimes, other component parties within BN such as MIC and MCA or Gerakan.
Cases that were assigned to me and my firm ranged from election petitions to other serious litigations involving Umno and BN.
I remember undertaking litigation works on behalf of Umno and some other clients in relation to the mega damages in defamation matters. I have personally rendered on countless occasions legal opinions as and when required by Umno, BN or any of its component parties.
I have been rendering this assistance to Umno sometime from the early part of the 1990s until now, but I have never been a member of Umno or any other political parties. My association with Umno and BN and the government under BN was purely as a solicitor and counsel, nothing more.
I have accrued many uncollected bills for my legal work from the days of Mahathir as the prime minister, especially during the period when Mohamed Rahmat was the secretary-general of Umno and BN. To complete the picture, I have also rendered legal services to the BN government and the respective prime ministers by providing urgent legal opinions and documentation.
The numerous files that have been opened with respect to all these works have not received any fees for a long time, as Umno had always promised me and my firm that the payment was forthcoming.
In some of these cases, some small disbursements were paid by Umno and BN and in some others, no disbursements were paid at all and my firm had to be saddled with the initial disbursements.
8. Sometime on or about September 2013, I chanced a meeting with Najib in the Prime Minister’s Office over various matters, and in that meeting, I had the occasion to raise with him the question of my needing to be paid for my services thus far for Umno and BN, as at that time I was in need of money to purchase a property from a friend who desperately needed to dispose of that property in order to purchase a new one for his family.
Najib learned for the first time that I had not been paid by Umno for all these years since the time of Mahathir, and he inquired from me what would be the fees that had been accumulated over the years since the early 1990s.
I told him the total fees would be in the region of not less than RM20 million but I was not asking for all that. I told him that I would be happy if he could settle about RM11 million worth of legal work in 46 election petition files, the subject matter of the years in 2004 and 2006.
Najib however, agreed to pay RM9.5 million as complete settlement of the legal fees of the 46 election petition matters but he had asked me to rationalise the paperwork later. I agreed to this arrangement.
Here, I must stress that I was made to understand that Najib was made responsible for handing the party's funds as this was a normal party practice. I had at that time absolutely no knowledge of the source of the payments to me by Najib.
9. As pointed out by Prime Minister Mahathir recently, who, when asked by journalists whether Tommy Thomas was a crony of Pakatan Harapan leaders, retorted, “Lawyers take cases that bring in their income.”
Am I any different to AG Thomas when he was engaged to represent Anwar and Lim Guan Eng, or for that matter Sulaiman Abdullah who was Anwar’s lawyer in Sodomy I and defamation cases (now a DPP on fiat against Najib), or Gopal Sri Ram who used to represent Anwar in the Sodomy II appeal (and now a DPP in the AGC)?
10. I am a regular advocate and solicitor who works for fees. Why am I being scrutinised when I collect fees for my Umno/BN work? If you allow lawyers to be harassed like this under purported money laundering investigations et cetera, the future of the legal profession is impeded. This is a phenomenon the world bodies of the legal profession are watching.
11. Sometime about a year ago, I have explained these matters to the MACC in the course of their routine investigations pertaining to the payment of RM9.5 million that became an issue because of the 1MDB matter.
I had brought with me documents showing the files that I have billed and my banking documents to reflect the receipt of the RM9.5 million and their disbursements. Recently, about three weeks ago, I have also given a further statement to the MACC (to a different investigation officer) pertaining to this RM9.5 million issue.
I have a further appointment at my request to see the same officer this coming Tuesday or Wednesday to show again the documents pertaining to the files that I have billed and other documents.
The recent statement that I had given to MACC was made after the MACC had frozen the relevant account of mine in CIMB Bank which received the RM9.5 million and the disbursements therefrom.
That particular account was frozen by MACC without any notification to me until I found out on my own when some of my cheques bounced and I had to replace them to the relevant payees with other cheques.
12. Najib would be able to confirm the reason for the RM9.5 million being paid to me.
13. I am surprised and appalled that Siti Rahayu Mohd Mumazaini, a lawyer formally with the firm of Tommy Thomas who now acts as a special officer to the attorney-general, deems it fit to affirm an affidavit disclosing the matters pertaining to the RM9.5 million payment to my account when they are purportedly the subject matter of active investigation by MACC.
Further, she has selectively mentioned some facts in a slanted fashion so as to invite adverse inferences to be drawn on me in relation to the RM9.5 million payment, as if that payment was relevant to the unfounded claims and allegations made by Anwar in his originating summons.
I personally refrained from explaining all this because the subject matter is under investigation, but now I am forced to bring forth the full details of these payments as Anwar himself and others similarly minded have been making unfounded allegations that attempt to link the RM9.5 million to my undertaking of the appeals against Anwar.
But I am now particularly forced to do this explanation in public as Siti Rahayu’s affidavit has been allowed to be in the public domain by Anwar and others although it has just been affirmed on Sept 5, 2018 and has not been read in court to make it a public document.
I would like to comment that Siti Rahayu obviously failed to understand the affidavit that I affirmed on Aug 3, 2017 (in two languages), when she alleged in her ultimate paragraph of her affidavit (paragraph 15) that the denial in Paragraph 28 of my said affidavit was untruthful, according to her.
I am shocked and appalled that a clear averment on my part can be misconstrued.
For clarity, that paragraph reads: “The rumours of the alleged RM9.5 million received by me for the prosecution of the Anwar appeals and the fact that the plaintiff (Anwar) avers that the prime minister Najib made the payment to the second Respondent (me) for that stated purpose is unsubstantiated, baseless and remain hearsay. The second Respondent (me) denies this allegation.”
14. It is so discouraging that a special officer to the august office of the attorney-general could lend herself to making conscious, deliberate and dishonest averments in her affidavit. I am reserving my rights to take the necessary steps against this unprecedented breach of confidentiality by a serving DPP.
15. I fear this sudden development initiated by Siti Rahayu within the attorney-general’s office as erroneously expressed in her affidavit is deliberate, to allow others like Anwar to take advantage of the misleading and motivated averments to be abused against me.
These recent developments, I fear, are a setting to victimise and demonise me and to put unfair pressure on the Attorney General’s Office to take actions against me. I fear that the Attorney General’s Office is being exploited to victimise me perhaps to discourage me in the defence of Najib in his case.