PUTRAJAYA, August 7 — In a unanimous ruling, the Federal Court today rejected Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s last attempt to remove former judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor in his 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) trial set to begin August 19.
Chief Justice Datuk Seri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat who chaired the seven-judge bench dismissed Najib’s appeal to disqualify Sri Ram as the prosecutor on grounds that the latter was acting in conflict of interest, failure to rebut allegations of perjury and biased.
“The appeal was devoid of merit. The Lower Courts did not err in its decision. We therefore dismiss the appeal,” she said.
Tengku Maimun said the Federal Court upholds the findings of the High Court and the Court of Appeals.
The Federal Court ruling also means that Sri Ram would now be allowed to lead the prosecution team in any case assigned to him.
However, Tengku Maimun ruled that the prosecution team must produce Sri Ram’s Letter of Appointment (LoA) as senior deputy public prosecutor in court and provide a copy to Najib’s lawyer.
“There is nothing material to show that the LoA is classified under the Official Secrets Act 1972.
“We therefore dismiss the appeal and order a copy of the LoA to be filed in court,” Tengku Maimun said.
The six other judges on the bench were the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Seri David Wong Dak Wah, Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Datuk Rohana Yusuf, Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed, Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Tan Sri Idrus Harun.
Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib told reporters outside court later that the ruling means there is not more obstacles against Sri Ram to conduct criminal prosecutions.
“As it stands, Sri Ram can now prosecute and lead the team for Najib’s 1MDB trial that starts on August 19,” he said.
According to Ahmad Akram, Sri Ram has also been assigned to lead the prosecution team involving Najib’s joint trial with former Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah over six criminal breach of trust (CBT) charges involving RM6.64 billion scheduled to begin later in the year.
On May 7, the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled Sri Ram could continue to be on the prosecution team in Najib’s 1MDB case after Najib appealed an earlier High Court decision.
A three-judge Bench chaired by Court of Appeal judge Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof unanimously ruled that Najib’s appeal to get Sri Ram’s appointment letter on the grounds of the latter’s alleged involvement in the 1MDB investigations would not affect his rights to a fair trial.
On March 1, the High Court had dismissed Najib’s bid to disqualify Sri Ram, finding that there was no evidence to show the latter would be biased or that Najib would be denied a fair trial.
The High Court previously set August 19 to 29; throughout September and October except for Fridays; and the first two weeks in November, for Najib’s 1MDB trial pending conclusion of his ongoing SRC International corruption trial.
Najib is currently on trial at the High Court for seven money laundering and criminal breach of trust charges over RM42 million in SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.
The SRC International trial is scheduled to run until August 15.