(Updated)

Najib fails in appeal to disqualify Sri Ram from leading prosecution in 1MDB audit report tampering trial

Najib (pic) and Arul Kanda are on trial over 1MDB audit report tampering charges. (Photo by Mohamad Shahril Basri/The Edge)

Najib (pic) and Arul Kanda are on trial over 1MDB audit report tampering charges. (Photo by Mohamad Shahril Basri/The Edge)

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PUTRAJAYA (Sept 8): The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court decision to dismiss Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s bid to challenge the appointment of Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor in the former prime minister’s 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)-linked cases.

In a unanimous decision, the three-member bench led by Justice Datuk Yaacob Md Sam said there was no appealable error in the High Court’s decision on Feb 15 to dismiss Najib’s bid to disqualify Sri Ram as a senior deputy public prosecutor (DPP) in the cases.

Najib and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy are on trial over 1MDB audit report tampering charges.

Sri Ram appeared for the prosecution today with Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah in the hearing via Zoom.

Part of Shafee’s contention this morning was that Sri Ram should be recused because the former judge had shown bias against Najib even before he was appointed as a prosecutor.

Shafee also contended that Sri Ram had also been involved in 1MDB investigations before the trial, which brings up a conflict of interest.

The lawyer previously cited a Facebook posting by former attorney-general Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, who alleged that Sri Ram was sent to see him in January 2018 by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to persuade him to arrest Najib.

Apandi also asserted in an affidavit of support for Sri Ram’s recusal that the former judge had a “clear mission of bias” against Najib.

The former attorney-general claimed that Sri Ram’s view was jaundiced and he was “horrified” to learn that the ex-judge was appointed a senior DPP under Section 376(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which he said was a misnomer as he thinks a DPP must come from the legal and judicial service.

In his affidavit, Apandi further said he communicated with Sri Ram via WhatsApp after the change of government on May 9, 2018 and asked the latter whether his job as the attorney-general was on the line as Sri Ram was advising Dr Mahathir. In response, Apandi said Sri Ram said he wished Apandi had followed his advice and charged Najib.

Shafee referred to excerpts of the conversation between Sri Ram and Apandi during his argument today.

Sri Ram, on his part, argued that his letter of appointment as a prosecutor did not state that he would be involved in the investigations.

He said that while Shafee had contended that the ex-judge was involved in 1MDB investigations, he had not brought evidence to support his claim.

“There is nothing put forward by the applicant (Najib) to suggest that I was involved in the investigations. Nowhere has Shafee been able to craft any proof of this because it is unassailable,” he said.

After brief deliberations, Justice Yaacob delivered the court ruling stating that the High Court was proper in dismissing Najib’s initial application.

The other judges on the bench were Datuk Abu Bakar Jais and Datuk Che Mohd Ruzima Ghazali.

S Kanagaraju & Surin Murugiah