Najib fails in latest bid to disqualify Sri Ram as lead prosecutor in 1MDB trials

Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan said that so long as Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram (pic) has carried out his duties, his personal opinion cannot be taken to mean that it would impinge on his duties as a senior public prosecutor. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan said that so long as Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram (pic) has carried out his duties, his personal opinion cannot be taken to mean that it would impinge on his duties as a senior public prosecutor. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 15 — The High Court has dismissed the defence’s application to recuse former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram from prosecuting Datuk Seri Najib Razak on charges related to the 1MDB scandal.

In delivering his decision, judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan said there was no evidence to suggest Sri Ram was biased and that each person is entitled to have an opinion including Sri Ram.

Mohamed Zaini said that so long as Sri Ram has carried out his duties, his personal opinion cannot be taken to mean that it would impinge on his duties as a senior public prosecutor.

“The applicant’s apprehension of Sri Ram’s biasness is without basis and misplaced. Sri Ram like any other person is entitled to have his personal opinion. It remains just that.

“It would have been a different consideration if he had demonstrated his biasness when carrying out his duty as a senior public prosecutor,” said Mohamed Zaini.

“His personal opinion cannot be taken to mean that it will impinge on his duties as a senior public prosecutor. The event nevertheless, as highlighted by the respondent, took place before Sri Ram was appointed as senior public prosecutor.

“More pertinent is the fact that the applicant had not made any complaints over Sri Ram’s conduct in the trials involving the applicant.”

Adding to that, Mohamed Zaini said the allegations that Sri Ram was involved in the investigations against him were unmeritorious.

He said there is no cogent evidence to support those claims and it remains purely hypothetical.

“This issue had in any event been canvassed by the applicant in the previous applications highlighted by the respondent. It is a moot point.

“It has been deliberated and decided. The decisions held by the other courts should also remain and not be regurgitated again,” said Mohamed Zaini.

Najib’s lead defence counsel, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, has been trying to remove Sri Ram as a prosecutor, arguing that Sri Ram had displayed bias and bad faith by allegedly having preconceived and predetermined notions of Najib’s guilt before he was charged in any court.

Shafee also argued that given Sri Ram has such preconceived notions of Najib, with the reputation as a senior lawyer and former Federal Court judge, would only cause further damage with him as Najib’s lead prosecutor, claiming he could possibly press his views onto the more junior deputy public prosecutors to craft the case to his liking.

This is the third time Najib has tried to dismiss Sri Ram.

Their previous application to disqualify Sri Ram was struck out by the Federal Court and later on their second application in the criminal courts to have Sri Ram removed from prosecuting his 1MDB-related cases was dismissed by High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah, with both the Court of Appeal and Federal Court subsequently also dismissing the bid to disqualify Sri Ram.

This third application differed as new evidence had cropped up. 

The new evidence concerned an exposé made by former attorney general (AG) Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi on social media in June last year, and then his subsequent affidavit submitted to the court, where the former AG claimed that Sri Ram had tried to persuade him to arraign criminal charges against Najib.

Text message exchanges from May 2018, within court documents sighted by Malay Mail, showed Sri Ram allegedly expressing his views to Apandi telling him of how he “wished” the former AG had taken his “advice to charge that criminal Najib”.

“It is ultimately the Courts bounden duty to ensure the trial is conducted fairly in the interests of justice.

“The Court will ultimately come to the aid of any party that was treated unfairly, if it ever comes to that.

“The applicant’s application is therefore dismissed,” said Mohamed Zaini.

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