Najib files fresh appeal to recuse Sri Ram

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Former prime minister Najib Razak today filed a fresh appeal to disqualify Gopal Sri Ram as the prosecutor in his trial for tampering with the 1MDB audit report.

Najib’s lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the prosecutor’s appointment letter indicated he was to spearhead the investigation as well as the prosecution of the case.

“His appointment was not merely as a prosecutor but as an investigator, which is not allowed,” Shafee told reporters at the Kuala Lumpur High Court complex.

Saifullizan Tamadi/NST

“We have filed the notice of appeal because we have got overwhelming reason (to believe) the disqualification of Sri Ram is almost inevitable.”

This is the defence’s fourth attempt to recuse the former federal court judge from the case.

“In Tommy Thomas’ controversial book, it was disclosed that the former attorney-general had requested for the deputy public prosecutors to be involved in the initial investigation into the 1MDB case.

“So, we felt a strong reason (to appeal), and we have called this press conference to say that we are pursuing it,” Shafee said.

The lawyer said the bias argument in the previous appeals for recusal is still valid.

“It wasn’t rebutted. In fact, it was confirmed in many ways by Sri Ram. There is misconduct,” he said.

Najib asserts Sri Ram is biased because of the latter’s involvement in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s investigation into the 1MDB scandal, and that the bias is evident in a WhatsApp conversation between the prosecutor and former attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Yesterday, the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed Najib’s bid to recuse Sri Ram from the trial.

Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan ruled the recusal application was without basis and misplaced because the event in which Sri Ram allegedly showed bias occurred before he was appointed to the prosecution team.

Najib, 68, is charged with using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee.

Ex-1MDB chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy is charged with abetting Najib in amending the report.

Both are charged under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, which provides for a maximum jail term of 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

The trial is set to resume on February 22. – TMI