The High Court today heard that no court had found former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram guilty of prosecutorial misconduct that he should be disqualified from conducting the 1MDB audit report tampering trial of former prime minister Najib Razak.
Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib said this during the hearing of the Pekan MP’s application to disqualify Sri Ram from leading the prosecution team in Najib’s ongoing trial before justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan.
“That should be the threshold of the application right now – whether he (Sri Ram) has committed prosecutorial misconduct, to which my answer is that he has not.
“The evidence he presented in all the trials that he handled as a representative of the prosecution was relevant and admissible,” he said.
Akram added that the point of bias raised in the application had also been adjudicated, thus making it res judicata or a matter decided.
He referred to a WhatsApp conversation between Sri Ram and former attorney-general (AG) Mohamed Apandi Ali in 2018, which Najib had claimed indicated bias in seeking for Apandi to charge him.
“It was a conversation between two buddies. We can see from the tone of the whole conversation. He (Apandi) started his message to Sri Ram with ‘bro’. From there, the conversation went on,” said Akram.
He said Najib had also submitted in his written submission that Sri Ram was involved in the 1MDB-related investigations, causing him to pre-judge the culpability of the applicant.
“His power to supervise investigations conducted by the investigating officer (IO) in his capacity as a senior deputy public prosecutor cannot be misconstrued as having taken over the investigation itself,” he said.
“The applicant failed to show any evidence that Sri Ram was indeed involved in the investigations against him. As such, the allegation that Sri Ram had taken over the investigations is without basis.”
Najib’s lead counsel, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, responded that the present disqualification bid did not seek to nullify the whole 1MDB audit trial so far, merely to see that the proceeding is conducted without bias.
“The disqualification we seek here is not punishment of anybody or Sri Ram, but to meet substantive fear of bias, on the matter of predetermination of guilt of Najib by Sri Ram.
“It is protection for the parties and the public, as well as for the wider interest of justice,” said Shafee.
After hearing submissions from both parties, Mohamed fixed Feb 15 for a decision.
This is Najib’s third attempt to recuse Sri Ram from prosecuting in the 1MDB-linked criminal cases. One application was filed in another 1MDB case before a different judge and the second was through a civil proceeding.
On June 12 last year, Najib filed an application to recuse Sri Ram, supported by two affidavits, one filed by Najib and the other by Apandi.
Najib, 67, and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy are on trial for charges of tampering with the 1MDB audit report.
The Pekan MP is charged with using his position to order amendments to the final audit report before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee to avoid any action 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.