Court to hear Najib’s bid to disqualify Sri Ram later, trial to proceed first


THE High Court here today has rejected Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s (picture) defence team’s request to postpone his 1MDB audit report tampering trial pending his application to disqualify senior public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram from leading the prosecution team in his case.

Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan ordered for the trial to continue tomorrow as the application should be dealt with separately.

He also said the defence should not compare disqualification application of a lead prosecutor with the recusal application of a judge.

“Recusal (of a judge) must be disposed of first, but I am not aware that this same argument (to recuse Sri Ram) applies here. In fact, it’s taking nine days of trial so far and it will be wasted if I allow the application (to postpone the trial). Taking into consideration that we are taking today’s off, I incline to proceed with the trial first,” the judge said.

The court then fixed Aug 7 to hear the application.

Justice Mohamed Zaini had adjourned today’s trial to tomorrow as an unwell lawyer in the defence team went for a COVID-19 test as a precaution.

Earlier, lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah submitted that the disqualification application should be heard before the trial proceed.

“This is a serious application because the defence has the affidavit from the former attorney-general (AG) Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali. If the allegations (in the affidavit) are true, the issue of disqualification must be decided immediately,” he said adding that if the court decided to go on with the trial it would jeopardise the principle that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.

In the affidavit to support the application, Mohamed Apandi Ali alleged Sri Ram of trying to convince him to arrest  Najib who was the prime minister at that time over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Muhammad Shafee also compared his application on disqualifying the lead prosecutor to the disqualification of a judge.

However, Sri Ram countered that the application could be done independently and it should not prejudice to the ongoing trial.

Najib filed the application to disqualify Sri Ram from leading the prosecution team on June 12.

In his application, Najib seeks a declaration that there was a conflict of interest between the appointment of Sri Ram as a Senior Deputy Public Prosecutor  (DPP) under Section 376(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code and his practice as an Advocate & Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya.

He also seeks a declaration that Sri Ram had acted and or continues to act in conflict of interest of his purported appointment as a senior DPP having displayed bias and mala fide, inter alia, by having preconceived and predetermined notions of the applicant’s guilt even before he was officially charged in any court or any order or relief which this court may deem fit and proper in the circumstances.

Meanwhile, Mohamed Apandi in his affidavit said that on the late afternoon in January 2018, Sri Ram came to his house at Jalan Dutamas here, after he (Sri Ram) made a couple of calls wanting to speak to him personally and privately.

“He (Sri Ram) said, “Tun M (former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) sent me to see you” and he continued, “He (Tun M) wants you to arrest Najib at his office, you go tomorrow at 2 pm, we have arranged for the police in Putrajaya to do what is necessary on your instruction. We have also arranged for a Magistrate to issue the remand order when he is brought before him or her”,” the former AG said.

Mohamed Apandi alleged that Sri Ram told him that he will be a hero in the eyes of the people and will be the first AG to arrest a sitting prime minister and that they have laid the ground plans and all he (Sri Ram) needs now is for him to agree.

The former AG contended that Sri Ram had a mission with a clear bias against Najib and all of his cases.

Najib, 67, is charged with using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee to avoid any action being taken against him, while Arul Kanda is charged with abetting Najib in making the amendments to the report to protect Najib from being subjected to action.

Both of them were charged under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, which provides a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.