Court rules Najib has no right to demand Sri Ram's appointment letter, application dismissed

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KUALA LUMPUR (March 1): Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak today failed in his application to disqualify former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram from leading the prosecution team in his 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) cases.

High Court Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah dismissed Najib's application after finding that there was no evidence to show that Sri Ram would be acting in a biased manner as Senior Deputy Public Prosecutor in handling the case.

“The court does not find any basis that would lead a reasonably informed member of the public to conclude that the applicant would not be accorded a fair trial if Sri Ram is involved in the prosecution,” the judge said.

He also said that there was no evidence to show that Sri Ram was involved with the investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) relating to 1MDB cases faced by Najib.

On the defence argument that Sri Ram must produce his Letter Of Appointment (LOA) through fiat as a prosecutor, Sequerah said Najib had no right to demand for the letter.

“The Attorney-General (AG) has himself stated in this court that Sri Ram was appointed pursuant to Section 376(3) Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), it can be taken that Sri Ram has the imprimatur of the AG to prosecute these cases.

“This fact itself would place any lingering doubts as to the locus standi of Sri Ram to appear to prosecute these cases beyond doubt,” the judge said.

Sequerah further said that  according to the provisions under 376(3) CPC, it did not stipulate that such appointment has to be in writing and this provision did not state that such appointment must be produced upon demand.

“There is no requirement for the appointment to be gazetted,” he said.

The judge also refused to grant Muhammad Shafee Abdullah's application to stay the trial which was scheduled to commence on April 15 to May 3.

Muhammad Shafee who was representing Najib requested the trial of 1MDB cases to be stayed as the defence would be filing an appeal against today's decision.

“We will be filing an appeal today,” he said.

However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib objected to Najib’s applicatiobn for a stay order, saying that an appeal did not warrant reason to ask that the trial should be postponed.

In December last year, Najib, as the applicant was seeking an order that the Public Prosecutor as the respondent produced a copy of the letter of appointment executed by the respondent in relation to the appointment of Sri Ram as a Senior Deputy Public Prosecutor purportedly under Section 376(3) of the CPC.

Najib, 66, is also seeking an order that Sri Ram be disqualified from continuing to act as a Senior Deputy Public Prosecutor and/or to appear on behalf of the Public Prosecutor in the 1MDB cases.

On Sept 20, 2018,  Najib  was charged with four counts under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act and 21 counts for money laundering involving 1MDB funds, amounting to RM2.28 billion.

He was charged with committing the offences at AmIslamic Bank Bhd, No. 55, Jalan Raja Chulan, Bukit Ceylon between 2011 and 2014.

On Feb 20, 2019, High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge Datuk Azizah Nawawi dismissed the application by Najib for leave for a judicial review to challenge the appointment of Sri Ram as the head of the prosecution team in his 1MDB cases.