Monday, February 22, 2021

Rosmah to know fate in graft case on Feb 18

The court will rule then whether she will be called to enter her defence or walk free.

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Rosmah Mansor will know on Feb 18 whether she will be called to enter her defence or walk free on three corruption charges relating to the solar hybrid project for 369 rural schools in Sarawak.

High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan fixed the date after hearing submissions from senior deputy public prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram and lawyer Akberdin Abdul Kader and Jagjit Singh representing Rosmah, who was in court today.

The judge also expressed his gratitude to the prosecution and defence for their comprehensive oral submissions.

“Thank you to both parties for the very well written submissions. My decision will be on Feb 18 at 2.30pm,” he said.

The prosecution closed its case on Dec 11 last year after calling 23 witnesses including Rosmah’s former special officer, Rizal Mansor, former education minister Mahdzir Khalid and the ministry’s then secretary-general Madinah Mohamed. The trial began on Feb 5 last year.

Rosmah is facing one charge of soliciting RM187.5 million and two counts of receiving bribes totalling RM6.5 million from Jepak Holdings’ former managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin.

Earlier, Sri Ram submitted that there was evidence from Rizal, the 21st prosecution witness (PW21), that the accused had instructed him to solicit the bribe.

“The defence submitted that the accused did not solicit any money from Saidi (PW17) and the prosecution’s answer to this point is this… the charge against the accused is not that she personally solicited the bribe in question. The prosecution’s case is that she did it through PW21. That is what the charge says. The defence addressed the wrong target.

“With respect, it is irrelevant that the accused did not solicit the bribe personally from Saidi,” he said, adding that Rosmah was a clever person as she had used Rizal as her agent.

Sri Ram said the defence had submitted that an adverse inference should be drawn against the prosecution for failing to call the butlers, who took the bags before the money was delivered to Rosmah’s official residence in Putrajaya.

“The unchallenged evidence of a businessman who was also Rizal’s friend, Ahmed Farriq Zainul Abidin (PW9), corroborates PW21’s evidence as to the delivery of the money. PW9 said that two butlers took the bags and PW21 followed them into the official residence. When PW21 emerged about 30 minutes later, he came with empty hands. PW9 and PW21 then went to Segambut.

“This evidence sufficiently proves the delivery of the money to the accused’s official residence and PW21’s evidence confirms that the accused took possession of the money. The butlers, therefore, are not material witnesses and would have merely further corroboration (if corroboration is required). There was already ample corroboration to show that PW21’s evidence was true and therefore, the failure to call the butlers is of no consequence.

“Hence, the invitation to draw an adverse inference in these circumstances is without merit,” he added.

Sri Ram also said it had been repeatedly emphasised by the defence that RM1.5 million was not personally handed to the accused because the bags were not opened in her presence for her to see the cash.

“There is no dispute that the RM1.5 million was encashed by PW17 and placed in the very bags that were delivered to the accused’s private residence. As has already been submitted, it may be proven by circumstantial evidence. Further, the exchange between PW17 and the accused confirmed that she was fully aware of the contents of the bags,” he said.

Sri Ram added that the main target of the defence was Rizal who was said to have solicited the money for himself, and that when the money was delivered, he appropriated it for his use without the knowledge of the accused.

However, Sri Ram submitted that it was highly improbable that Rizal would have acted of his own accord without the accused’s knowledge.

Akberdin countered that the offer to give a political donation was the original idea of Saidi and his former business partner, Rayyan Radzwill Abdullah, as it was meant for Najib Razak as a “gesture of gratitude” for supporting the application by Jepak Holdings, and to ensure the victory of Barisan Nasional during the 14th general election, and not for the accused.

The lawyer said there was no conclusive evidence that Rosmah had solicited and directly received the money.

“In fact, the butlers who carried the bags that allegedly contained money to a room were not called to give evidence by the prosecution,” he said, adding that an adverse inference in favour of Rosmah should be drawn.

Rosmah’s other counsel, Jagjit, said the evidence of Rizal should be rejected as he was an accomplice together with Saidi and Rayyan Radzwill.

“He was initially charged together with Rosmah but the prosecution dropped the charges against him to give evidence against the accused,” he said.

Rosmah was charged with soliciting RM187.5 million and two counts of receiving bribes totalling RM6.5 million from Saidi as a reward for helping Jepak Holdings secure the Hybrid Photovoltaic Solar System Integrated Project, as well as the maintenance and operation of diesel gen-sets, for 369 rural schools in Sarawak, which was worth RM1.25 billion, from the education ministry through direct negotiation.

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