Cherie Booth is barred from acting in Malaysian dispute

Malaysia's High Court has barred Cherie Booth from representing a company embroiled in a high-profile lawsuit which questions government transparency.

Ms Booth, a prominent human rights lawyer, was to appear in the Federal Court, Malaysia's highest, later this month on behalf of the construction firm Fawziah Holdings Sdn Bhd. Fawziah claims that it was victimised by two businessmen who had the support of Malaysia's former finance minister, Daim Zainuddin.

But Malaysia's attorney general, as well as lawyers for the company's legal opponents and Mr Daim, objected to the involvement of the British Prime Minister's wife, insisting her expertise was not needed for the case.

A High Court judge said yesterday that she agreed that Malaysian lawyers were capable of handling the case. Lawyers for Fawziah Holdings said that the firm would appeal.

Fawziah formerly controlled the toll operator Metramac Corporation through which it obtained a tender from the Kuala Lumpur city government in 1986 to build roads. Metramac is appealing against a court order to pay Fawziah compensation, amid allegations of an illegal payout from state funds.

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