KUALA LUMPUR: Top lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah today clarified that the RM9.5 million paid by Datuk Seri Najib Razak was for his work for Barisan Nasional's election petition cases and not as lead prosecutor in Datuk Seri Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy II appeal trial in 2015.
He said in Anwar's case, he had wanted to provide his services "pro bono" but the then Attorney General Tan Sri Gani Patail suggested that RM1,000 be taken as consideration for his appointment.
"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 RM1000 was never claimed by me to date." he said in a statement today.
Shafee's comment came following a report that DAP lawmaker, Ramkarpal Singh has called for a thorough investigation be carried out over the RM9.5 million allegedly paid by Najib to him for leading the prosecution team in Anwar sodomy case.
The Bukit Gelugor MP had said that a probe was crucial as the alleged payment may be tantamount to a breach of the prosecution’s integrity.
Meanwhile, Shafee pointed out that he had made a denial on the allegation before and the matter had been placed on record in an affidavit affirmed in Aug 3, 2017 in the proceeding brought about by Anwar in his Originating Summons in the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
He said he had acted for Umno and BN component parties during the terms of the previous prime ministers - from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Najib.
"Cases that were assigned to me and my firm ranged from election petitions to other serious litigations... I have personally rendered on countless occassions legal opinions as and when required by Umno, BN or any of its component parties,"
"I have been rendering this assistance sometime in the early 90s until now and have never been a member of Umno or any of its component parties." he said.
He said he had accumulated "many uncollected bills" for his legal work from Dr Mahathir's era, expecially during the period when the late Datuk Seri Mohamad Rahmat was the Umno secretary general.
"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."
Shafee added that sometime in Sept 2013, in a meeting with Najib, he was able to raise the matter.
"Datuk Seri Najib learned for the first time that I have not been paid by Umno for all these years since the time of Tun Dr Mahathir and he inquired from me what would be the fees that had been accumulated over the years since early 1990’s.
"I told him the total fees would be in the region of not more than RM20 million but I was not asking for all that.
"I told him I would be happy if he could settle about RM11 million worth of legal work in 46 election petition files." he said adding that Najib later agreed to pay him RM9.5 million.
As for the so-called party funds used to make the payment, he said at the time, he had no knowledge of the source of payment.
"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." he said.
In a statement issued by his office on Thursday, Anwar had said that an affidavit signed by an officer in the Attorney-General's Chambers substantiates his allegation that substantial payment was made to Shafee by Najib between Sept 2013 and Feb 2014.
The affidavit, which names Siti Rahayu Mohd Mumazaini, alleged that two cheques were issued by Najib – one on Sept 11, 2013 for RM4.3 million and another on Feb 14, 2014 for RM5.2 million.
Shafee allegedly received RM9.5 million in two tranches of RM4.3 million and RM5.2 million in his bank accounts in Sept 13, 2013 and Feb 17, 2014, respectively. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd