The High Court here has dismissed an application by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to remove private lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram from leading the prosecution against him over 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Najib, through his lawyer Tan Sri Mohd Shafee Abdullah, had contended that Sri Ram was biased and accused him of “prosecutorial misconduct”.
High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah decided otherwise. He said there were no grounds to show that Sri Ram was biased as the deputy public prosecutor handling the case.
“There is also no basis for the public to conclude that the accused would not have a fair trial if GSR is conducting the case,” he said, referring to Sri Ram by his initials.
Najib had applied to disqualify Sri Ram as fiat prosecutor for 25 charges of corruption in the alleged transfer of 1MDB funds into his accounts.
The former judge is also leading the prosecution for Najib’s criminal breach of trust case involving the misuse of government funds for the settlement with International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and the alleged alteration of the 1MDB audit report.
Sequerah today said Sri Ram had in his affidavit stated that he is not involved with the authorities’ investigation.
On Najib’s argument that Sri Ram must produce his letter of appointment as fiat prosecutor, the court said the former premier had no right to demand this.
“GSR, in his affidavit, affirmed that the appointment letter is under the Official Secrets Act and that the attorney-general came to court and argued that it is confidential,” Sequerah said.
He added that the attorney-general had made Sri Ram’s appointment clear in a media statement.
Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, representing Najib, said they wanted the court to halt the trial slated for April 15.
“We will be filing an appeal today,” he said. “I also gave an undertaking to the court that I will expedite the appeal hearing.”
However, deputy public prosecutor Akram Gharib objected to Najib’s bid for a stay order, saying an appeal does not warrant reason to ask that the trial be halted.
Sequerah then dismissed the bid to stop the trial.
In the corruption charges under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act, Najib was accused of using his position as prime minister, finance minister and chairman of the 1MDB advisory board to receive bribes on four occasions.
The money laundering charges include nine counts of receiving illegal proceeds, five counts of using illegal proceeds and seven counts of transferring the proceeds to other entities.
Najib, who was present, sat in the dock and did not speak throughout the proceeding.