Tommy Thomas read law at the University of Manchester and international relations at the London School of Economics. He is a Barrister (Middle Temple). He was called to the Malaysian Bar in 1976.
As a barrister of some 45 years standing, Thomas has had the privilege of appearing as counsel in landmark cases in various branches of the law in all the courts of Malaysia, including the Privy Council in London, which was Malaysia’s highest court until 1985. Thomas has nearly 200 reported cases and hundreds of unreported cases.
During his time in practice, Thomas acted as lead Counsel in the Pesaka and Aldwich bond disputes, the 2 largest of their kind in Malaysia, for Danaharta, a public company established by the Government of Malaysia as the national asset management company to rescue the Malaysian financial sector from the 1997 Asian financial crisis, for the Companies Commission and the Securities Commission of Malaysia, the state governments of Penang, Selangor, Terengganu and Kelantan, and numerous financial institutions and Malaysian public listed companies in a variety of commercial, contract, corporate, securities and tax disputes.
He has been singled out for over 20 years as one of Malaysia’s leading litigation lawyers by independent international publications such as The Asia Pacific Legal 500, Which Lawyer, Who’s Who Legal (The International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers), Commercial Litigation Lawyers of Asia and Chambers Asia.
He was a member of the Bar Council for over a decade. He was Editor of its publication, Insaf from 1984 to 1987 and Secretary from 1995 to 1997.
In June 2018, Thomas was appointed Attorney General of Malaysia. He was the first private practitioner since World War II appointed to the office direct from the Bar without any experience in the public service. After 20 months in office, he resigned when the Pakatan Harapan coalition government lost power.
During his term, Thomas charged the former Prime Minister with numerous offences in multiple cases in respect of Najib Razak’s involvement in the 1MDB scandals. He led the prosecution in the first criminal trial. Najib Razak was convicted in August 2020 of all 7 charges relating to corruption, criminal breach of trust and money laundering offences. Thomas also charged Goldman Sachs, Jho Low, Timothy Leissner and Roger Ng for their complicity in the 1MDB scandals. All these accused were charged for white collar crimes.
Thomas demonstrated his corporate commercial litigation skills whilst in office when he instituted civil proceedings in the High Court at London, seeking the setting aside of a consent arbitration award recorded between the Government of Prime Minister Najib Razak and IPIC of Abu Dhabi. The Malaysian Government secured an important victory before the Court of Appeal in this litigation. Thomas also directed the Government of Malaysia to file civil proceedings to recover a loan of some RM250 million from the family of a former Cabinet Minister in the notorious Cowgate scandal.
Perhaps the most significant civil proceedings instituted by Thomas on behalf of the Government of Malaysia was the suit filed for the Orang Asli against the State Government of Kelantan. This is a public law action similar to a derivative action in company law to assist the Orang Asli to pursue litigation which they otherwise would have been unable to bring and maintain. The action seeks to protect the welfare and well being of Orang Asli whose rights under ancestral lands have long been violated.
Thomas returned to the firm in September 2020 as a Consultant. He has also resumed his career as a litigator in the superior courts.
Thomas regards himself as a social scientist, having abiding interests in economics, politics and history. He has written extensively and presented papers in these subjects, as well as diverse legal subjects. He has published 2 books of essays. His memoirs “My Story: Judiciary in the Wilderness” published in January 2021 was critically acclaimed and is a best seller.