DPP: “Overbearing” Rosmah Wielded Considerable Influence

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DPP Gopal Sri Ram said the prosecution would, by direct and circumstantial evidence, prove that Rosmah solicited a bribe and received gratification as alleged in the charges brought against her. 

According to the prosecution, Rosmah:

  • Because of her overbearing nature, wielded considerable influence despite occupying no official position
  • Put herself in a position where she was able to influence decisions in the public sphere
  • Used her aide Rizal to make her demands and negotiate the bribe that was to be paid to her
  • Wanted 17% of the project value, but on Rizal’s advice, agreed to accept 15%
  • Received RM5 million at her official residence

Former prime minister’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor was seen sitting on a cushion in the dock this morning by around 10am, which was the scheduled time for the trial, after having missed the initial first day of trial on Monday due to her medical conditions.

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The prosecution had on Monday objected to the use of the medical certificate to justify Rosmah’s failure to show up, arguing that it was a “last-minute attempt” to avoid attending court.

Rosmah’s husband Najib, who is also in the court complex today for his separate corruption trial involving RM42 million of former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd’s funds, was seen briefly in her courtroom while her trial was ongoing.

This is the first time that both husband and wife are in court together to face their separate trials.

Below is the opening statement of DPP Gopal Sri Ram that was read out in court today:

The accused is the wife of the former prime minister. By herself, she occupied no official position. However, she wielded considerable influence by reason of her overbearing nature.

She placed herself in a position where she was able to influence decisions in the public sector. The prosecution will lead direct and circumstantial evidence to show that the accused solicited a bribe and received gratification as alleged in the charges brought against her.

Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd is a private limited company. At all times relevant to the charges, Saidi Abang Samsudin was the Managing Director and majority shareholder of Jepak.

Saidi wanted to obtain work from the federal government for his company. Specifically, he wanted an award of a contract to carry out a solar hybrid project purportedly to benefit some 369 rural schools spread across the interior of Sarawak. Saidi sought the contract from the ministry of education with his partner Rayyan Radzwill Abdullah.

They approached Mahdzir Khalid, the then minister of education for the Federation of Malaysia. A meeting took place between them. It was unfruitful for Saidi. He got nowhere.

Saidi and Rayyan then approached one Aazmey Abu Talib whom they perceived as being close Bto the accused’s husband in order to obtain support for his request for the contract.

With Aazmey’s help, Saidi managed to obtain a minute from the accused’s husband on his letter of application supporting it. But that did not help speed up matters with the ministry of education.

Saidi and Rayyan were bent upon getting the solar hybrid project for Jepak. Avenues of success having produced no positive result, they turned to the accused whom they managed to contact through Rizal Mansor.

Rizal arranged a meeting between Saidi, Rayyan and the accused. The meeting took place between January and April 2016. It was held in the privacy of the accused’s private residence at Jalan Langgak Duta, Kuala Lumpur.

Saidi wanted the accused’s assurance that she would help Jepak. In return, Saidi was prepared to offer a large sum of money to the accused.

Evidence will be led to show the active role played by the accused to obtain the project for Jepak. In return, she solicited and obtained a bribe.

According to Saidi, at the 2016 meeting, the accused was shown Jepak’s application bearing a minute from the accused’s husband.

Saidi then made an offer of a political donation to the accused’s husband as a gesture of gratitude for supporting the application.

It is of importance to note that the accused did not hold any position of responsibility in any political party at that time. The accused knew that the so-called “political donation” was meant as a bribe for her.

Payment was contingent on her using her influence to obtain the solar hybrid contract for Saidi’s company. After this meeting, the accused incrementally increased the sum of political donation to RM187.5 million which works out to 15 percent of the value of RM1.25 billion.

She used Rizal to make her demands and to negotiate the bribe that was to be paid to her. Initially, she wanted 17 percent of the value of the project which works out to a sum in excess of RM200 million. On Rizal’s advice, she agreed to accept 15 percent.

A sham agreement was drawn up by one Lawrence Tee. The purpose of the agreement was to disguise the payment and to conceal the name of the true recipient of the money. That agreement has gone missing. Nobody is certain who has it. Lawrence will testify as to its contents.

On Dec 20, 2016 after this agreement was executed, Saidi gave the accused RM5 million in cash as promised. This payment was made after the letter of award was issued to Jepak by the ministry of education.

The money was delivered to the accused’s official residence in Putrajaya and received by her after confirming with Rizal that the sum was in fact RM5 million. The evidence on this part of the case will go to establish the first charge against the accused.

The solar contract was executed on June 20, 2017. The ministry of education then released a series of payments to Jepak. Later, Saidi delivered RM1.5 million in cash to the accused at her Langgak Duta home on Sept 7, 2017.

The foregoing evidence should be sufficient to establish the second and third charges against the accused. Direct and circumstantial evidence will be led to prove that the accused was actuated by a corrupt intention at all material times.

As in most if not all corruption cases, the prosecution has to rely on the evidence of interested witnesses. At the appropriate stage, the prosecution will invite the court to approach the evidence of such witnesses with caution. But at the end of the day their evidence will be found to be both credible and corroborated in material particulars.

The prosecution will be able to prove not only that a crime was committed, but that it was the accused who committed it.

Finally, the court will hear evidence of witnesses who may display a bias towards the accused. On the facts of this case, this is inevitable. The prosecution will address the court on the way in which the evidence of these witnesses is to be treated when we come to make our submissions.

Rosmah’s lawyer Jagjit Singh objected to certain remarks in Sri Ram’s opening statement, including those on her alleged “overbearing nature” and considerable influence and alleged influencing of decisions in the public sector.

Jagjit argued that the law only provides for the prosecution to start a trial by stating the nature of the case and that it “does not give the prosecution the licence to defame a person, to use adjectives”.

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“These are the remarks which they themselves choose to give an overdose of publicity to the press, not us. They should be expunged, because the law says you only go on the facts of the case,” he said.

Claiming that these remarks in the opening statement amount to a “character assasination”, Jagjit applied to the court for the removal of several lines up to the comment on Rosmah’s alleged influence of decisions in the public sector to avoid an “overdose of publicity in the press”.

Sri Ram, however, argued that there was no “character assassination” against Rosmah, and that it was important to show how she had acted in this case, what role she played and how she played it as this is a corruption case.

When leaving the courtroom, Rosmah was seen walking out accompanied by several individuals, including her lawyer, and was seen placing her hand on an aide’s arm for support.

Azneal Ishak/Malaysiakini

Asked by reporters how she was feeling today and about the condition of her health, Rosmah replied, “It’s OK, ask my doctor,” as she walked away.

When met by reporters, Rosmah’s lawyer Akberdin Abdul Kader said his client currently is not testifying in the trial but will still have to be “healthy” to be present and sit in court.

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“She’s unwell as you can see today, she is guided by the doctor’s advice, the court is in the know about it,” he said, adding that the High Court had previously instructed her to inform the court if she is unwell as she would be given some “elbow room to relax” and adjourn the case.

Akberdin said the legal team had told Rosmah to appear in court today despite her recent hospitalisation, as the court requires her presence at her trial today and they had to comply with the court’s instructions.

Meanwhile, defence lawyer Jagjit argued that the medical certificate issued by a doctor stating that his client was unfit to attend court should have been accepted.

“Despite her ill condition, she came from hospital. What does that say? The scales of justice must always be even,” he said, noting that lawyers sometimes also fall sick.

“She has to go back now, she has got other procedures,” Jagjit said of Rosmah being required to return to hospital.

When asked what kind of medical treatment Rosmah was undergoing, Jagjit replied: “That I can’t disclose because it’s very personal.”

When asked if Rosmah would be fit to attend court for the bribery trial tomorrow, Akberdin said: “We are guided by the doctors.”