The charges against Najib, who served as prime minister from 2009 to 2018, involved the transfer of RM42 million (US$9.4 million) from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB into his personal bank accounts in 2014 and 2015.
He was found guilty on three counts of criminal breach of trust, three counts of money laundering and one count of abuse of power by the High Court in July 2020, and was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million.
The conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal on Dec 8, 2021. Najib later filed a petition of appeal to the Federal Court on Apr 25 this year.
The Federal Court had initially set aside nine days – Aug 15 to Aug 19 and Aug 23 to Aug 26 – for his appeal. This is Najib’s final bid to overturn the guilty conviction.
The hearing proper only started on Thursday, with Mr Hisyam being denied of his request to discharge himself from representing Najib.
In delivering the judges’ decision, the chief justice said the court had discretionary authority to allow or deny the discharge application to safeguard and protect the rights of an accused.
On Monday, Najib sought to adduce new evidence in his appeal, but the five-man bench unanimously rejected the application on Tuesday.
Later on Tuesday, the Federal Court also dismissed a request by Najib to adjourn the final appeal hearing.
Mr Hisyam – who was appointed to replace the legal team that Najib discharged at the end of July – had requested for the case to be deferred for three to four months as the defence needed sufficient time to deal with the case.
The chief justice ruled on Tuesday that parties are well aware of the hearing dates and should have taken every effort to be ready.
Najib issued a statement on Thursday saying that his “rights, life, liberty and right to a fair hearing” was at stake.
Najib said the fact that Mr Hisyam stated multiple times that he was not prepared for the appeal meant that he was necessarily left with no effective counsel or proper presentation before the court.
He said that he had brought in a new team for a fresh perspective on the case but that the team would need time.
“I am not ashamed to say, I was desperate, as would any litigant in my predicament.
“I am now in a situation where my right to counsel and a fear hearing is illusory because I made a decision that I thought was in my best interests at the time,” he added.