PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has given leave to Najib Razak and his lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to challenge the attorney-general’s decision to appoint senior lawyer Gopal Sri Ram as senior deputy prosecutor.
A three-member bench led by Hasnah Mohamed Hashim said there was merit in the appeals by the duo for leave to be granted in their judicial review applications.
“The nature and jurisdiction in a judicial review as well as the disqualification motion filed in the criminal court are separate and distinct.
“The issue of multiplicity does not arise as the remedies sought are also different,” said Hasnah in allowing the appeals by the former prime minister and Shafee.
She said the judicial review applications was “arguable and not frivolous”.
“We allow both appeals and set aside the High Court order dated Feb 20,” said Hasnah, who sat with judges Lau Bee Lan and Has Zanah Mehat.
In an immediate response, deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib said Sri Ram would lead the prosecution team when Najib’s 1MDB trial begins before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
“We will also decide on the next course of action on today’s Court of Appeal ruling,” said Akram who appeared with AG Tommy Thomas as respondents.
However, Shafee who will be leading the defence team in the 1MDB case said the prosecution should apply to postpone the case.
“The ball is in their court,” added the senior lawyer who was assisted today by Harvinderjit Singh.
Najib and Shafee are challenging the AG’s decision to appoint Sri Ram as deputy public prosecutor under Section 376 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Shafee said the provision is only applicable to deputy public prosecutors who are civil servants and who come under the judicial and legal service.
He and Najib are also seeking to disqualify Sri Ram from prosecuting in any criminal cases involving them.
Sri Ram and lawyer Sulaiman Abdullah were appointed by Thomas as deputy public prosecutors in the 1MDB and SRC International Sdn Bhd cases last year.
Sri Ram has also been tasked with leading the prosecution in the International Petroleum Investment Co case involving Najib and former Treasury secretary-general Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah.
He is likewise assigned to prosecute Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, her son Riza Aziz and Najib’s former special officer Rizal Mansor for corruption and money laundering.
He has also been assigned to prosecute Shafee, who is facing four charges under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act for receiving RM9.5 million from Najib.
On Aug 7, a Federal Court bench led by justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat dismissed Najib’s final bid to stop Sri Ram from prosecuting in the 1MDB case.
On Feb 20, meanwhile, judge Azizah Nawawi said she would not entertain the judicial review application as the criminal High Court was also hearing a similar application by Shafee and Najib.