In an unexpected turn of events, the High Court today acquitted Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s former special officer Datuk Rizal Mansor from all corruption charges involving a solar hybrid project in Sarawak after the prosecution sought to drop all charges against him.
Rizal, 45, was acquitted of four counts of soliciting and receiving bribes on behalf of Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor for a RM218 million solar power supply and installation project.
He was to be tried together with Rosmah in the case that was set to begin in February.
“Given the info, the prosecution withdraws all charges against Rizal Mansor. We offer no evidence against him and we move that your lordship strike out the charges against the accused,” said appointed senior deputy prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram
Following that, High Court judge Mohamed Zaini then said to Rizal – who was seated in the docks with Rosmah – that he was now free to go after the court made the decision to acquit him.
Rizal was then seen bowing to His Lordship and walked out the docks without acknowledging Rosmah.
It is likely that Rizal may be called in as a prosecution witness to testify against Rosmah in the Sarawak solar project case.
During the proceeding, lawyer Datuk Jagjit Singh who is representing Rosmah, 68, had asked the court to extend the scheduled trial date on Feb 3 as the prosecution had withdrawn the charges against Rizal.
“We are shocked at this directive and need to set out all defence strategies and examine witness statements.
“Accordingly, the defence applied for the court to extend the trial dates set for February and March,” he added.
However, the court dismissed the application and maintained Feb 3 for the trial to begin.
Earlier, there was a commotion when Rosmah tried to approach an individual in the public gallery but was prevented from doing so by her lawyer and daughter.
According to the charge sheets, Rosmah allegedly received bribes amounting to RM5 million from Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin, 60, through Rizal.
The money was an inducement for Rosmah to assist the company in securing the Integrated Hybrid Photovoltaic (PV) Solar System and Gense / Diesel Operations for 369 Sarawak rural schools worth RM1.25 billion, in direct consultation with the Ministry of Education.
Rosmah was charged with committing the act at Kediaman Seri Perdana, Persiaran Seri Perdana, Precint 10, Putrajaya, on Dec 20, 2016.
The charge framed under Section 16 (a) (A) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 is punishable under Section 24 (1) of the same act, which provides for a maximum jail term of 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the sum or value of the gratification, or RM10,000, whichever is higher, if found guilty.
On Nov 15, 2018, Rosmah was charged with two counts of soliciting RM187.5 million and receiving RM1.5 million in connection with the solar power supply and installation projects for 369 Sarawak rural schools.
The solar project courted controversy when whistleblower website Sarawak Report alleged in June 2018 that Najib had ordered the contract to be awarded to Jepak Holdings, a transportation services company based in Bintulu.
Jepak Holdings was appointed at the end of 2016 for the supply of diesel and repair of generators, and to provide solar hybrid systems for 369 rural schools in Sarawak.
To date, none of the schools has these systems.
Meanwhile, Rosmah’s lead counsel Jagjit Singh expressed disappointment that the prosecution withdrew the charges against Rizal close to the trial date as it disrupted the preparation of their client’s defence.
Sri Ram said there was nothing spectacular about withdrawing charges against an accused person as it was a common occurrence.