Najib appeals to stop Sri Ram from leading prosecution

Lawyer Gopal Sri Ram.

PUTRAJAYA: Najib Razak has filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal to stop Gopal Sri Ram from leading the prosecution in his 1MDB-related trial, scheduled to begin next month.

The former prime minister has also filed another appeal to halt the trial, fixed from April 15, pending the court’s decision on Sri Ram’s status.

Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Farhan Muhammad Shafee said the appeals were filed last Friday after a ruling by the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile, deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib said the Court of Appeal registry had fixed another case management on March 22 as the appeal records from the High Court are not ready.

“Court of Appeal registrar Norsharidah Awang has given another date,” he told reporters.

Last week, High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah dismissed Najib’s application to disqualify Sri Ram as lead prosecutor in his 1MDB-related case.

Sequerah said there were no grounds to show that Sri Ram was biased as the deputy public prosecutor handling the case, or for the public to conclude that there would not be a fair trial.

He also dismissed the application by Najib’s lead counsel, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, to suspend the trial pending the appeal on Sri Ram’s status.

Last September, Najib was charged with four counts of graft and 21 counts of money laundering involving 1MDB funds amounting to RM2.28 billion.

His trial was fixed to run from April 15 to May 3, with about 50 prosecution witnesses lined up to testify.

Sri Ram 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 and the alleged alteration of the 1MDB audit report.

He has also appeared in court to prosecute Najib’s 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.