Court throws out Najib’s appeal against Sri Ram as prosecutor in 1MDB case

Senior lawyer Gopal Sri Ram.

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal here has ruled that senior lawyer Gopal Sri Ram can continue to lead the prosecution team in Najib Razak’s 1MDB case.

Justice Zabariah Mohd Yusof, who chaired the panel, ruled that Najib’s appeal against the High Court decision dismissing his bid to disqualify Sri Ram has no merit.

“The appellant (Najib) alleged that Sri Ram was involved in the 1MDB investigation process and ought to be disqualified.

“However, Sri Ram in his affidavit denied that he was involved in the investigations and said that he was appointed by the attorney-general to lead the 1MDB prosecution on Aug 31, 2018,” she said in delivering the court’s unanimous decision.

Other judges who sat with Zabariah today were Lau Bee Lan and Rhodzariah Bujang.

Zabariah also said there was no evidence that Sri Ram, a former judge, was biased against Najib during the prosecution process.

“The burden is on the appellant (Najib) to show evidence, not bare allegations,” she said.

She was referring to Najib’s complaint over Sri Ram’s conduct in opposing bail on Sept 20 last year, when the former prime minister was charged in the Sessions Court with 25 counts of corruption and money laundering in the alleged transfer of 1MDB funds into his accounts.

The panel also disagreed that Najib would be deprived of a fair trial if he was unable to view Sri Ram’s appointment letter as fiat prosecutor in the 1MDB case.

“We fail to see how that would affect his right to a fair trial,” Zabariah said.

Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the defence team would appeal against today’s decision and seek a seven-judges quorum to hear the appeal.

“We are making an oral application to the court to produce today’s full judgment as soon as possible,” he said, adding that the 1MDB trial would begin on Aug 19.

To this, Zabariah said the panel would produce its full written judgment by the end of next week.

The High Court in March dismissed Najib’s application to disqualify Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor in his 1MDB case.

Collin Lawrence Sequerah, who is the 1MDB trial judge, said there were no grounds to show that Sri Ram was biased as the deputy public prosecutor handling the case.

He added that Najib has no right to demand that Sri Ram produce his letter of appointment as fiat prosecutor as the letter is under the Official Secrets Act.

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

His 1MDB trial will run from Aug 19 to Nov 14.