Mahathir wants to recuse judge in suit to nullify forex RCI findings

KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is seeking to recuse a High Court judge from hearing his lawsuit to nullify the 2017 Royal Commission of Inquiry’s (RCI) findings on Bank Negara Malaysia’s forex losses.

His lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla said they did not want Justice Azizah Nawawi to hear their RCI lawsuit because the judge had previously heard another RCI-related case.

“Before the RCI hearing started in August last year, we filed for judicial review to recuse two RCI members, namely Sidek Hassan and Saw Choo Boon. The same judge had heard and dismissed our case,” he told reporters after meeting Azizah in chambers.

Haniff said the issues in this current RCI lawsuit were similar to the previous panel recusal case, and that the judge ought to discharge herself from hearing it.

Azizah fixed May 17 for decision on the recusal plea.

Therefore, the government, which had been scheduled to attempt to annul Mahathir’s lawsuit on the RCI findings today, could not go ahead with it.

Last year, Azizah dismissed an application for leave to commence a judicial review by Mahathir to remove Sidek and Saw from the panel, before the RCI hearing started. The court had held that RCI members had no power to remove themselves and thus, there could be no formal decision on their recusal.

The RCI, held over nine days from Aug 21 to Sept 19 last year, saw a total of 25 witnesses, including Mahathir, his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim and former finance minister Daim Zainuddin testifying.

In its report tendered to Parliament in November, the panel concluded there were elements of hidden facts and information relating to forex losses suffered by Bank Negara and that misleading statements had been given to the cabinet, Parliament and the public.

The report said Bank Negara suffered a total loss of RM31.5 billion between 1992 and 1994.

The commission proposed that the police open investigations into possible criminal breach of trust or cheating by various parties, including Mahathir and Anwar.

Special mention was made of ex-Bank Negara adviser Nor Mohamed Yakcop, whom the report named as “principally liable for criminal breach of trust”, while Daim was said to have aided and abetted Nor Mohamed.

Mahathir filed a suit in December to quash the RCI’s findings, claiming the decision by the five-member panel was null and void as it excluded legal documents of witnesses and notes of proceedings.

He added that the RCI report also failed to include written submissions and legal authorities submitted by lawyers after the hearing.

Mahathir also claimed the RCI was formed with an ulterior motive, as he was now heading the opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan.

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