Najib, Shafee told to pursue case against Sri Ram in criminal court

Najib Razak and Mohammad Shafee Abdullah

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court today dismissed the bid by former prime minister Najib Razak and his lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to challenge Gopal Sri Ram’s role as lead prosecutor in the cases against them.

Shafee told reporters that judge Azizah Nawawi had ruled in chambers that he and Najib should pursue their case against Sri Ram and Attorney-General (AG) Tommy Thomas in the court hearing their criminal cases.

“Azizah said although we have a strong case against the AG, for convenience, we were advised to pursue our cases in the criminal court as it is more suited to hear our applications,” he said.

However, Azizah made no order to costs.

Another High Court judge, Collin Lawrence Sequerah, will continue to hear arguments from Shafee and fellow lawyer Harvinderjit Singh on Friday to disqualify Sri Ram from leading the prosecution for Najib’s 25 charges related to 1MDB.

Harvinderjit had earlier argued that Sri Ram should not prosecute Najib on grounds that he may be biased against the former prime minister.

“The AG had said in his press release back in August that Sri Ram had been appointed to supervise investigations and prosecute 1MDB-related cases.

“As a deputy public prosecutor, he must be impartial and cannot come to court with a mindset that the accused Najib is already ‘guilty’,” he said, adding that Sri Ram may be exposed to the facts on the cases.

Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib however told the court that Najib’s application to disqualify Sri Ram was defective and the court, in hearing criminal cases, cannot grant the reliefs sought by Najib.

Najib currently faces 42 charges related to the state fund, its former subsidiary SRC International, the altered 1MDB audit report and the 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.

The two sought to challenge Thomas’s decision to appoint Sri Ram to lead the prosecution in the cases against them.

They want a court order to stop Sri Ram from acting as fiat prosecutor in their cases.

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

Senior lawyers Sulaiman Abdullah and V Sithambaran were also appointed as fiat prosecutors for Najib’s RM42 million and RM47 million SRC International cases.

Sri Ram had appeared in court on behalf of the AG’s Chambers 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.