Friday, February 26, 2021

Najib fails to remove Sri Ram from prosecution in 1MDB audit report trial

Judge says there is no merit to Najib's allegation that Sri Ram was involved in the investigation against him.

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Former prime minister Najib Razak today failed in his attempt to remove former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram from leading the prosecution team in his ongoing 1MDB audit report trial.

This was Najib’s third attempt to recuse Sri Ram from prosecuting in the 1MDB-linked criminal case. The first was filed in another 1MDB case before a different judge and the second was through a civil proceeding.

High Court Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, in dismissing the Pekan MP’s application, said the court found Najib’s allegation that Sri Ram had been involved in the investigation against him unmeritorious.

“There is no cogent evidence to support the applicant’s allegation and it remains purely hypothetical. This issue had in any event been canvassed by the applicant’s application in the previous applications highlighted by the prosecution as respondent. It is a moot point.

“It has been deliberated and decided. The decisions held by the other courts should remain and not be regurgitated again,” said the judge.

Zaini, in his brief grounds, said Najib had, among others, relied on communications that took place between former attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali and Sri Ram as proof of the latter’s bias towards him and that the applicant’s apprehension of Sri Ram’s bias was without basis and misplaced.

“Sri Ram, like any other person, is entitled to have his personal opinion. It remains just that. It would have been a different consideration if he had demonstrated bias when carrying out his duty as a senior public prosecutor. His personal opinion cannot be taken to mean that it will impinge on his duties as a senior public prosecutor.

“The event nevertheless, as highlighted by the respondent, took place before Sri Ram was appointed as senior public prosecutor. More pertinent is the fact that the applicant had not made any complaints about Sri Ram’s conduct in the trials involving the applicant. This lends credence to the respondent’s contention that Sri Ram had been above board in his conduct as a senior public prosecutor,” he said.

Zaini said it was ultimately the court’s duty to ensure that a trial is conducted fairly in the interest of justice.

“The court will ultimately come to the aid of any party that was treated unfairly, if it ever comes to that. The applicant’s application is therefore dismissed,” he added.

The 1MDB audit report trial will resume on Feb 22.

At today’s proceeding, deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib prosecuted, while lawyer Nur Syahirah Hanapiah represented Najib.

Najib, 67, and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy, 45, are on trial for charges of tampering with the audit report.

The Pekan MP is charged with using his position to order amendments to the final 1MDB audit report before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee to prevent any action taken 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.

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