Cherie Blair hired for controversial court case

Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

Cherie Blair, the lawyer wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has been hired to act in a Malaysian court case linked to corruption allegations against a former finance minister, a report said today.

The Star newspaper said Mrs Blair had agreed to head the legal team for Fawziah Holdings as it fought a final appeal by Metromac, a highway tolls concession holder ordered to pay US$18 millon in compensation.

As a foreign-based lawyer Mrs Blair, who is a human rights expert and a Queen's Counsel (QC), needs approval to appear in a Malaysian court but is scheduled to be at the Federal Court on June 14.

Anti-corruption groups and Malaysia's opposition have called for an investigation into the case after a judge found Metromac's owners were awarded a US$202 million payout under the patronage of former minister Daim Zainuddin.

Paid to two tycoons

The sum, to compensate for tolls lost from major city roads, was handed over soon after two politically connected tycoons took over Metromac despite the government saying previously it had no funds for a payout.

Fawziah, the previous owner of Metromac, is seeking compensation.

An appeals court judge said in January that the evidence revealed "a scandalous state of affairs" and that "you may well ask how all this could have happened without the direct involvement of Daim".

The Federal Court will also hear an appeal from Daim to wipe out all references made in relation to them in the critical judgment.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has launched a campaign to purge corruption which is endemic in Malaysia, but critics say he has failed to make enough headway and that prosecutions are too slow.

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