Sri Ram can continue to prosecute Najib, court rules

Former prime minister Najib Razak outside the High Court in Kuala Lumpur today.

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court today dismissed Najib Razak’s application to disqualify Gopal Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor for his 1MDB-related case.

High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah said there were no grounds to show that Sri Ram was biased as the deputy public prosecutor handling the case.

“There is also no basis for the public to conclude that the accused would not have a fair trial if GSR is conducting the case,” he said, referring to Sri Ram by his initials.

Najib had applied to disqualify Sri Ram as fiat prosecutor for 25 charges of corruption in the alleged transfer of 1MDB funds into his accounts.

The former judge is also leading the prosecution for Najib’s criminal breach of trust case involving the misuse of government funds for the settlement with International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and the alleged alteration of the 1MDB audit report.

Sequerah today said Sri Ram had in his affidavit stated that he is not involved with the authorities’ investigation.

On Najib’s argument that Sri Ram must produce his letter of appointment as fiat prosecutor, the court said the former prime minister had no right to demand this.

“GSR, in his affidavit, affirmed that the appointment letter is under the Official Secrets Act and that the attorney-general came to court and argued that it is confidential,” Sequerah said.

He added that the attorney-general had made Sri Ram’s appointment clear in a media statement.

Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, representing Najib, said they wanted the court to halt the trial slated for April 15.

“We will be filing an appeal today,” he said. “I also gave an undertaking to the court that I will expedite the appeal hearing.”

However, deputy public prosecutor Akram Gharib objected to Najib’s bid for a stay order, saying an appeal does not warrant reason to ask that the trial be halted.

Sequerah then dismissed the bid to stop the trial.

Sri Ram’s appointment as fiat prosecutor was announced by Attorney-General Tommy Thomas in August last year.

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

Sri Ram had appeared in court on behalf of the Attorney-General’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.

Najib currently faces 42 charges related to 1MDB, its former subsidiary SRC International, the altered 1MDB audit report and the misuse of government funds for the settlement with IPIC.