Thursday, June 23, 2022

Strike two for Rosmah in bid to disqualify judge from hearing money laundering case

High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan says the second bid was mostly based on the same grounds as the first application, and that parties should not be allowed to litigate the same issue over and over again.

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Rosmah Mansor has failed again to recuse High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan from presiding over her money laundering and tax evasion trial.

This was the second time that Rosmah, the wife of former prime minister Najib Razak, had filed an application after Zaini, who is also the same judge in Rosmah’s solar hybrid case trial, rejected her application on Dec 14 to recuse him from hearing the trial.

Zaini in dismissing Rosmah’s application said the second bid was considerably based on the same grounds as the first application, namely the fact that he is the presiding judge in Rosmah’s solar hybrid case trial.

The judge said that Rosmah, however, had sought to include two other cases over which he presided, namely the 1MDB forfeiture case where Rosmah was one of the respondents, and the 1MDB audit case.

“What the applicant did in including these two additional cases was to add more colour to her application. It is, however, in essence, the same as the grounds submitted are similar to the first application as they pertain to my involvement and decisions made in these cases.

“I must add that I was bemused that the applicant had mentioned the 1MDB forfeiture and 1MDB audit cases in her application. I had, in the 1MDB forfeiture case, dismissed the prosecution’s attempt to forfeit properties belonging to her.

“The 1MDB audit case, on the other hand, does not concern the applicant at all. I am of the opinion that the applicant is estopped from litigating again the application for recusal. The doctrine of res judicata applies in this second application,” he said.

Zaini also said the initial arguments that Rosmah put forward in respect of the 1MDB forfeiture and audit cases could have been canvassed in the first application as they were well within her knowledge at the time when the first application was made.

“Public interest demands that there must be a finality to litigation and parties should not be allowed to litigate the same issue over and over again. The applicant’s application is therefore dismissed,” he said.

However, Zaini granted an application by Rosmah’s counsel Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin to stay the money laundering trial, which was initially scheduled for April 27, pending the disposal of Rosmah’s appeal on today’s decision at the Court of Appeal.

“The trial is therefore vacated,” said the judge after the prosecution raised no objections to the stay application.

Rosmah’s appeal over the first failed recusal bid is still pending before the Court of Appeal. The appeal has been fixed for case management on May 19.

Meanwhile, Zaini also fixed May 24 for mention of Rosmah’s bid to disqualify former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram from acting as the lead prosecutor in her 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 (LHDN).

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

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