Court stops Rosmah’s bid to avoid declaring wealth

Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former prime minister Najib Razak.

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court today dismissed the declaration sought by Rosmah Mansor that a provision in the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (Amla) to compel her to declare her assets is unconstitutional.

Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan said the law was formulated to address the blight of money laundering.

“The authorities must be given leverage to conduct their investigations effectively, such as by identifying the assets belonging to a person suspected of money laundering,” he said in his oral judgment.

However, he assured Rosmah that the presumption of innocence still applies to her and that the burden of proof is on the prosecution to establish guilt in a trial.

Rosmah, the wife of former prime minister Najib Razak, filed the application on Feb 24 to strike out a notice issued by the public prosecutor on Nov 1 last year to compel her to declare all her assets under Section 49 of Amla.

Failure to comply with the notice is an offence punishable by a maximum RM3 million fine, up to five years’ jail or both upon conviction.

On Oct 4 last year, Rosmah pleaded not guilty in the Sessions Court to 12 counts of money laundering involving about RM7 million.

The offences were allegedly committed at Affin Bank Bhd on Jalan Ampang here between December 2013 and June 2017.

Rosmah was also slapped with five counts of failing to declare her income between 2013 and 2017 to the Inland Revenue Board (LHDN).

The offences were allegedly committed at LHDN, Kompleks Bangunan Kerajaan on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim here between May 2014 and May 2018.

Zaini said he accepts the prosecution’s argument that the disclosure from Rosmah under Section 49 (1)(a) of Amla does not relate to the 17 charges she is facing.

“This therefore negates the applicant’s fear of having to disclose her defence, or that information obtained may be used against her in respect of the charges,” he said.

He added that Rosmah’s argument that she would be denied the right to a fair trial was speculative and without merit.

He accepted the prosecution’s argument that the Amla provision pertains to the power of investigation, and is to assist it in identifying the assets of a person suspected of money laundering.

He said Rosmah’s claim to the right to silence and privilege to self-incrimination can only be given during the trial and does not extend to the pre-trial process.

“I also concur with the prosecution’s argument that the right to remain silent and the privilege to self-incrimination are not constitutionally guaranteed rights,” he added.

The judge also dismissed the application by Rosmah’s lawyer Reza Rahim for a stay to comply with the notice pending the appeal.

Zaini said he had no jurisdiction to do so as Rosmah only sought a declaratory order from the court.

He said the lawyer could seek assistance from the prosecution for another extension.

However, ad hoc prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram said he had no instruction from the public prosecutor.

Rosmah was not present in court as she is said to be outstation.