KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 14): Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor on Tuesday (Dec 14) failed in her attempt to recuse High Court Judge Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan from presiding in her money laundering and tax evasion case.
Following that, her trial will begin on Jan 12, with Justice Zaini presiding.
The court in its decision on Tuesday said Rosmah's primary concern pertained to her statement given to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) under Section 32 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.
Justice Zaini said he is of the view that the accused's contention that she may be greatly prejudiced — as this court may possibly make a comparison between the statement and her defence here — is unfounded.
“I had in the solar case, when allowing the prosecution's application to admit the statement for the purpose of impeaching the accused, ruled that no questions are to be asked pertaining to the facts of the money laundering case here.
“I had in making that ruling held that the probative value of the issues that the prosecution intends to bring up does not outweigh the prejudicial effect that the accused may suffer. I took great care to ensure that the accused would not be prejudiced in her money laundering case when references are made to the statement in her solar hybrid [project] case,” the judge said.
He added that he had a solemn duty as with any judge to ensure that the accused is tried fairly as enshrined under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution (liberty of a person).
Justice Zaini said the prosecution had argued and convinced him that the issues that it (the prosecution) intends to adduce in relation to Rosmah's statement in the solar case had no bearing on the issues of this money laundering and income tax case.
“I would also add that a judge is required to consider separately and independently the evidence against the findings. Any findings that I make in the solar hybrid case remain there,” he said, adding that he is trained in law to remain impartial despite reading facts relating to a case.
“The applicant's application for recusal is therefore dismissed,” the judge said.
Money laundering trial to start next month
Immediately after the decision, senior Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram asked Rosmah's counsel Datuk Geetham Ram Vincent whether he intends to appeal against the decision.
However, Geethan said he would like to seek instructions from his client on the matter first.
The counsel tried to clarify further with the court whether it intends to have the solar hybrid trial completed first before starting with the money laundering case, and Justice Zaini replied that he intends to start the case as scheduled.
Following that, Justice Zaini directed that Rosmah's money laundering trial begin on Jan 12, with further dates of Jan 24 to 26, 2022.
Rosmah has claimed trial to 17 charges over some RM7.1 million allegedly transferred into her personal bank account between 2013 and 2017.
The 17 charges are framed under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 and the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.
Under the first eight charges, Rosmah is accused of being involved in money laundering by directly engaging in a transaction involving proceeds of unlawful activities amounting to RM1.1 million, which were deposited into her account.
For the ninth to the 12th charges, Rosmah is alleged to have directly engaged in 227 transactions involving proceeds of unlawful activities totalling RM6 million, which were deposited into the same account.
On the 13th to 17th counts, Rosmah is accused of engaging in money laundering by failing to file a return on the sum that was deposited into her account — as required under the Income Tax Act 1967.
She filed an application to recuse Justice Zaini last month after his court allowed the prosecution to use the statement she gave to the MACC regarding her money laundering case in her present solar hybrid case involving 369 rural schools in Sarawak.
Her solar hybrid trial was supposed to be heard last week and this week, but had to be deferred due to her MySejahtera application status not being blue, which barred her presence from the court complex.
Geethan on Tuesday submitted that Rosmah was concerned over a real danger of bias against her by Justice Zaini due to the possibility that he had seen the whole statement that was recorded by the MACC for her money laundering case.
The defence contended that they were concerned about the court's impartiality due to this.
However, Justice Zaini said he had not seen the statement.
Sri Ram in reply said it was premature for Rosmah to make the application, and further told the court that the prosecution is only interested to show two sentences in the statement, where the accused claimed not knowing former Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Saidi Abang Samsuddin and consultant Rayyan Radzwill Abdullah.
The senior DPP added that Rosmah, however, had testified in her defence that she knew both of them.
“That is the only matter that we want to refer to and not her whole money laundering statement,” Sri Ram told the court.
Rosmah's application to recuse judge to be heard on Dec 14
Rosmah applies to recuse Justice Zaini from hearing her money laundering case