KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 20): Former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram who is leading the prosecution team could be a potential witness in former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s corruption and money-laundering cases involving 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds, the High Court heard today.
Counsel Harvinderjit Singh, who is representing Najib, also said Sri Ram was acting in conflict of interest as he is involved in both investigations and prosecution in Najib’s 1MDB cases.
"The involvement means that Sri Ram has already pre-judged the culpability of Najib and the fact that the cases have been instituted would mean that Sri Ram had convinced the Public Prosecutor that there was enough evidence to charge.
“The Applicant (Najib) cannot come with a belief that this person is already guilty,” he said in his submissions at the hearing of the defence’s application to disqualify Sri Ram as lead prosecutor in the cases before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.
Asked by Judge Sequerah, whether this meant that Sri Ram could be a potential witness, Harvinderjit replied: "Yes."
Harvinder said in an interview transcript of the Attorney-General’s statement on Sept 13, last year, published in the Attorney-General’s Chamber’s (AGC) website, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) interviewed witnesses and Sri Ram was involved.
"It said that Sri Ram was involved to push 1MDB and argue in court for two of the cases. The word ‘push’ connotes a very positive action to ensure this is done. The conflict is not that he is involved in the investigations per se,” said the lawyer.
He further submitted that in opposing bail to his client on Sept 20 last year when the 1MDB case commenced, Sri Ram had made clear insinuations that Najib had committed the offences.
“Sri Ram said this is a case of unparalleled proportions and the fact that the elected head of state is facing charges for that crime is a matter of national disgrace.
"This was made by a DPP in his submissions on (the matter of bail) bail. Can we say that he is going to be independent and objective? Harvinderjit said.
Meanwhile, Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah submitted that Sri Ram ought to be disqualified as he is not a fit and proper person to prosecute and it impinges on his character as a dishonest person.
He also said Sri Ram’s clear bias had already manifested itself during the proceedings in Najib’s case.
Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib appeared for the prosecution at today’s proceedings.
Hearing continues on Friday.
On Sept 20, 2018, Najib, 66, was charged with four charges under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act and 21 charges for money laundering involving 1MDB funds, amounting to RM2.28 billion.
He was charged with committing the offences at AmIslamic Bank Berhad, No 55, Jalan Raja Chulan, Bukit Ceylon between 2011 and 2014.