Judge Rejects Bid to Delay Najib’s Trial over Apandi’s Claims Against Sri Ram

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The High Court here today dismissed Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s application to adjourn his 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit tampering trial.

Najib had pleaded for the trial to be adjourned until his application to disqualify former federal court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor of his case is heard.

The former prime minister’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah pleaded for the adjournment after arguing that some serious issues had cropped up involving Sri Ram and the defence had filed a fresh application to disqualify the Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP).

He said the defence, along with former Attorney General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, had filed separate affidavits last week seeking for Sri Ram’s disqualification.

“In view of the seriousness of the issues involved, we hope this trial can be adjourned until our application to disqualify Sri Ram is heard,” he said at the onset of the continuation of the 1MDB audit tampering trial before High Court Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, this morning.

Mukhriz Hazim/Malaysiakini

“We have the affidavit of a former attorney-general. On the basis and assumption, (if) it is true, then it becomes critical and the issue of disqualification (should) be decided promptly.

“Any prosecutor involved in that sort of transaction cannot be a party, cannot be independent and ought to be sent out.

“Far more important is, if this court is to go on with the trial, it would mean as though the application made is non-existent or trivialised.

“This application that is serious in nature to the public…yet the court is going on as though this is trivial when the public thinks it’s not trivial. The matter has to be heard first,” the lawyer told the court.

Shafee likened his application against the special prosecutor to the disqualification of a judge.

“In an analogy, one must purge contempt of court before one can be heard,” he said.

However, Sri Ram said there was nothing new in the two affidavits which had been filed by the defence and there was no reason for the trial to be adjourned.

Azman Ghani/The Star

He said the defence had filed similar motions to have him disqualified previously but they had failed to do so after the Court of Appeal and also the Federal Court dismissed the application last year.

Zaini said the current application did not concern the disqualification of a judge, among others.

“Recusal and contempt of court must be disposed of first but I am not aware this sort of matter applies here,” he said.

He then ruled that the trial will continue and fixed August 7 to hear the fresh application filed by Najib, supported by Apandi’s affidavit to disqualify Sri Ram.

The application comes in the wake of an allegation by Apandi that Sri Ram had tried to coax him into filing charges against Najib in 2018.

Apandi, in his Facebook posting, claimed that Sri Ram had gone to his house in Jan 2018 to discuss the matter.

In the 1MDB audit tampering trial, Najib – along with former 1MDB chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy, are jointly accused of tampering with the auditor-general’s (A-G) final audit report on the sovereign wealth fund.

Najib is charged with using his position as then prime minister to order amendments to 1MDB’s final audit report before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and to prevent any action taken against him.

Bernama

Arul Kanda, who is represented by Datuk N Sivananthan, is accused of abetting Najib in making the amendments.

The charges are framed under Section 23 (1) of the MACC Act 2009, which carries a maximum 20 years jail and a fine of five times the amount of gratification received.

The trial has seen six witnesses, including former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa and former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, called to the stand as prosecution witnesses.

The hearing continues tomorrow.