Apex court dismisses Najib’s appeal, Sri Ram stays as SDPP in audit tampering case

PUTRAJAYA: Former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram will remain as ad hoc deputy public prosecutor in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report tampering trial.

This was after the 69-year-old former prime minister lost his appeal in the Federal Court today to disqualify Sri Ram from continuing to act as senior deputy public prosecutor (SDPP) and to appear on behalf of the public prosecutor for that case.

A three-member bench of the Federal Court comprising Justices Datuk Vernon Ong Lam Kiat, Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Datuk Seri Hasnah Mohammed Hashim unanimously dismissed Najib’s appeal ruling that there was no evidence of bias on Sri Ram’s part following his appointment as senior deputy public prosecutor.

Justice Ong who led the panel said the court agreed with the High Court and the Appellate Court that there was no evidence to show that Sri Ram had participated in the investigation process and carried out the investigation in Najib’s IMDB cases.

“We do not think the High Court and the Court of Appeal had committed error of law warranting appellate intervention,” he said.

However, Justice Ong said the courts had the inherent jurisdiction to disqualify a lawyer from acting as deputy public prosecutor in any criminal case.

Najib had applied to disqualify Sri Ram in his audit tampering trial, seeking declarations that there was a conflict of interest between Sri Ram’s appointment as senior deputy public prosecutor and his continuous practice as an advocate and solicitor.

He also sought a declaration that Sri Ram had acted in conflict of interest of his appointment as senior deputy public prosecutor, having displayed bias and having preconceived and pre-determined notions of Najib’s guilt even before the latter was officially charged in any court.

In his application, he also wanted an order that Sri Ram also is disqualified from continuing to act as senior deputy public prosecutor or to appear on behalf of the public prosecutor in his other IMDB-related criminal cases.

The other 1MDB-linked trials against Najib still pending in the Kuala Lumpur High Court are the IMDB case, the criminal breach of trust involving payments to the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and the money-laundering and power abuse linked to the 1MDB case.

On Feb 15 this year, the High Court dismissed Najib’s appeal and on Sept 8 he also lost his appeal in the Court of Appeal.

The High Court has fixed Jan 30 next year to give its verdict on whether Najib and former IMDB chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy would be acquitted or ordered to enter their defence on the audit tampering case.

Najib is charged with using his position to order amendments to the IMBD final audit report before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee to avoid any action being taken against him while Arul Kanda, 45, is charged with abetting Najib in making the amendments to the report, to protect Najib from being subjected to action.

The offence was allegedly committed at the Prime Minister’s Department Complex, Federal Government administrative centre in Putrajaya between Feb 22 and 26, 2016.

Najib is serving 12 years in jail after the Federal Court upheld his conviction and jail sentence and RM210 million fine for misappropriating RM42 million in SRC International funds in Aug this year.

Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah represented Najib while the prosecution team was led by Sri Ram. – Bernama

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