KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 14 ― Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor today failed her bid to recuse judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan from trying her tax evasion and money laundering of some RM7 million.
Rosmah’s lawyer for this trial, Datuk Geethan Ram Vincent had previously applied to the High Court to recuse Zaini, who is also the presiding judge for her corruption case involving a solar hybrid project in Sarawak.
Zaini is also the presiding judge in today’s recusal application.
Rosmah had previously argued that Zaini’s decision in her tax evasion and money laundering trial could be swayed directly or indirectly by statements and exhibits tendered in the solar project trial.
In court today, Geethan pointed out that Zaini had allowed certain excerpts of Rosmah’s statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to be used by the prosecution to impeach her or to challenge her credibility as a witness over alleged contradiction of evidence.
Geethan said the application for recusal was made on the possibility that Zaini would be “exposed” to the facts of the case before its official hearing, which could create “bias” towards in the tax evasion and money laundering trial.
He stressed that he was not questioning the integrity of the court nor the judge.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram countered, saying the recusal application was premature.
Gopal said the prosecution had yet to introduce the alleged contradictory statement and subsequently questioned Rosmah on the matter in her corruption trial.
After considering the arguments, Zaini dismissed the recusal application.
But he also said he would only allow the prosecution to question Rosmah specifically on her alleged contradictory evidence in her statement to the MACC without adducing further excerpts as to ensure a fair trial.
Zaini stressed that he has sworn an oath to act professionally and in accordance with Article 5 of the Federal Constitution to ensure a fair trial to all accused in his court.
“The accused's primary concern pertains to her statement to MACC under Section 32 AMLATFPUAA (AMLA) 2001 refer to as the ‘the statement'
“I am of the view that the accused's contention that she may be greatly prejudiced, as I may possibly make a comparison between the statement and her defence here is unfounded.
“I had in the solar case, when allowing the prosecution's application to admit the statement for the purposes of impeaching the accused, ruled that no questions are to be asked pertaining to the facts of the AMLA case here.
“I had in making that ruling held that the probative value of the issues that the prosecution intends to bring up does not outweigh the prejudicial effect that the accused may suffer.
“In gist, I took great care to ensure that the accused would not be prejudiced in the
AMLA case when references are made to the statement in the solar case.
“It is after all my solemn duty and that of any judge, to ensure that the accused, or any accused for that matter, is tried fairly as enshrined under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution,” he said in making his decision.
Zaini pointed out that judges, unlike jurors, are trained in law to remain impartial even when reading related materials from another case.
“I would also add that a judge is required to consider separately and independently the evidence against the accused. Any findings that I make in the solar case remain there.
“The applicant's application for recusal is therefore dismissed,” he said.
The jury system is not currently in practice in Malaysia. It was abolished in 1995.
Previously in the solar project trial, the prosecution had sought to cross-examine Rosmah over her alleged contradictory statement that she had made to the MACC in relation to her money-laundering investigation.
The prosecution had intended to challenge Rosmah’s credibility by using the aforementioned statement that she had given to the MACC which allegedly contradicts the statement that she had made in court during her corruption trial.
On October 21, Zaini had ruled that Rosmah’s statement to the MACC was admissible as evidence and can be used by the prosecution to impeach the accused.
In this trial for her money laundering and tax evasion charges, the hearing before Zaini is due to take place on January 12, 23, 24, 25 and 26.