Saturday, January 22, 2022

Rosmah fails to disqualify judge in solar case from hearing her money laundering trial

High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan says it is his duty to ensure that any accused is tried fairly as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

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Rosmah Mansor’s money laundering and tax evasion case will be heard before the same judge who is hearing her ongoing graft trial over the RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project for rural schools in Sarawak.

High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan today dismissed Rosmah’s application to recuse him from presiding over the money laundering and tax evasion trial and set the trial to begin on Jan 12, 2022.

The judge said he took great care to ensure that the wife of former prime minister Najib Razak would not be prejudiced in the money laundering case when references are made to the statement in the solar case as a judge os required to consider separately and independently the evidence against the accused.

“Any findings that I make in the solar case remain there. It is after all my solemn duty or that of any judge to ensure that the accused, or any accused for that matter, is tried fairly as enshrined under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution,” he said.

Zaini also cited a decision by the Federal Court in the case of Public Prosecutor versus Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor which had held that a judge, unlike jurors, is trained in law to remain impartial despite reading the facts relating to a case.

The judge said Rosmah’s contention that she might be greatly prejudiced as he might make a comparison between the statement and her defence in this case was 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 were to be asked pertaining to the facts of the anti money laundering case here.

“In making the ruling, I 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.

“In any event, the learned counsel for the respondent (Rosmah) had during the course of submissions convinced me that the issues that the prosecution intends to adduce in relation to the statement in the solar case have no bearing on the issues in this case,” he said.

The prosecution was conducted by senior deputy public prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram while Rosmah who was not present in court today was represented by lawyer Geethan Ram Vincent.

On Nov 2, Rosmah filed the application to recuse Zaini from presiding over her money laundering and tax evasion trial on the grounds that the statements and exhibits that had been tendered before the court in the solar case could directly or indirectly influence the judge if he were to preside over the money laundering case.

Rosmah, 70, is facing 12 money laundering charges involving RM7,097,750 and five counts of failing to declare her income to the Inland Revenue Board.

The offences were allegedly committed at Affin Bank, Bangunan Getah Asli branch, ground floor, 148, Jalan Ampang between Dec 4, 2013 and June 8, 2017, and the Inland Revenue Board, Kompleks Bangunan Kerajaan, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim between May 1, 2014 and May 1, 2018.

The charges of money laundering were framed under Section 4(1) (a) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001, punishable under Section 4(1) of the same act, which provides for imprisonment of up to 15 years and a fine of not less than five times the sum or value of the proceeds of unlawful activity, or RM5 million, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

With regard to the tax evasion charges, made under Section 77(1) of the Income Tax Act 1967, Rosmah is accused of failing to furnish the returns of her income for the assessment years 2013 to 2017 to the LHDN director-general on or before April 30, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 without reasonable excuse, contrary to Section 112 of the law.

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