Government opposes bid by Najib, Shafee to remove Sri Ram as lead prosecutor

Both former prime minister Najib Razak and his lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, face multiple criminal charges.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) today objected to the two legal challenges filed by former prime minister Najib Razak and his lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to Gopal Sri Ram’s role as lead prosecutor in the cases against them.

Najib faces 39 charges related to 1MDB, its former subsidiary SRC International, the altered 1MDB audit report and misuse of government funds for the settlement with International Petroleum Investment Company.

Shafee meanwhile faces four charges over the deposit of RM9.5 million in his bank account.

They are challenging the decision by Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to appoint Sri Ram, a former judge, as lead prosecutor. They are also seeking a court order to stop Sri Ram from acting as fiat prosecutor in their cases.

Shafee told reporters after case mention today that the AGC had informed High Court judge Azizah Nawawi of its objection as both cases are duplications of the criminal proceeding.

“The judge told us to put in our submissions, and that she would hear our leave application for both judicial reviews against Sri Ram’s appointment on Jan 29,” he said.

He added that another High Court had fixed Feb 8 to hear Najib’s bid to recuse Sri Ram as lead prosecutor.

When asked why they were seeking to recuse Sri Ram as lead prosecutor, Shafee said that as a practising lawyer, Sri Ram could not assume different roles as both prosecutor and private practitioner.

“He must be a permanent staff in the AGC and a public servant,” he said.

“A deputy public prosecutor cannot be appointed under the provision of law that allows him to be in the private practice and represent the government at the same time.”

Sri Ram was appointed as fiat prosecutor to spearhead the study of investigation papers, the drafting of charges and the prosecution of any person charged with 1MDB-related offences.

Senior lawyer Sulaiman Abdullah was also appointed as fiat prosecutor for Najib’s RM42 million SRC International case.

Najib claimed in his affidavit for judicial review that there was conflict of interest in Sri Ram’s appointment as fiat prosecutor.

He said his legal team had previously written to Thomas, demanding that the government’s lawyer produce Sri Ram’s appointment letter, but the request was denied.

“The attorney-general acted improperly when he authorised Sri Ram to have direction and supervision of the investigation process, and to conduct the prosecution culminating from the investigation,” he said.

He added that Sri Ram was also representing private individuals against the state despite his role as lead prosecutor.

“Sri Ram was acting for Anwar Ibrahim in his lawsuit against the government over the alleged RM9.5 million payout to my lawyer, Shafee Abdullah,” he said, adding that Sri Ram was also leading the prosecution against Shafee in the RM9.5 million money laundering case.

“In other words, Sri Ram now purports to act for and against the government at his whim and fancy,” Najib said.

Sri Ram had appeared in court on behalf of the attorney-general to prosecute Najib, his wife Rosmah Mansor, Shafee, former Treasury secretary-general Irwan Serigar, former 1MDB executive director Arul Kanda Kandasamy, former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, former intelligence head Hasanah Ab Hamid and former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman.