KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — The hearing for Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s RM7 million money laundering trial at the High Court today failed to proceed as scheduled after she made an eleventh-hour bid to disqualify Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram to lead the prosecution in the case.
Prior to the commencement of the trial, Rosmah’s lawyer Datuk Geethan Ram Vincent informed the court that his client had written to the attorney general to request a copy of Sri Ram’s fiat (letter of appointment) to be produced before them.
In reply, Sri Ram said he was currently in possession of a copy of the fiat, which he had similarly tendered to the court in Rosmah’s RM1.25 billion solar project trial previously, before handing it over to the defence.
Following a short recess to allow the defence to peruse the document, Rosmah’s lawyer argued that Sri Ram’s letter of appointment did not specifically state the authority given to Sri Ram to take on this case as the lead prosecutor.
Geethan pointed out that the letter only said that Sri Ram was authorised to conduct the criminal prosecution in Rosmah’s solar project trial and not today’s money laundering case.
This prompted Sri Ram to respond that his appointment was validly made under Section 376 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
He submitted that the fiat was given to him by the attorney general under Sections 376 and 379 of the CPC, and that being a senior deputy public prosecutor accorded him the authority to also prosecute other cases not expressly stated in the fiat.
Sri Ram noted that the High Court had on September 24 last year declared in Rosmah’s separate ongoing corruption trial that he was competent to prosecute her as his appointment under Section 376 was wide in nature.
He further cited a Court of Appeal ruling on December 6 last year where Rosmah’s application to remove him and to declare her ongoing corruption trial linked to the RM1.25 billion Sarawak rural schools’ solar hybrid energy project a nullity was dismissed.
“This follows that his Lordship has already decided on the issue when this court dismissed the same application previously.
“This involves the same accused and on the same ground. Therefore, we say it is an abuse of the court process,” Sri Ram argued.
According to her lawyers, Rosmah also filed a new application to recuse trial judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan from hearing the aforementioned money laundering and tax evasion case.
The application was filed at 5pm on January 11.
According to court documents, Rosmah claimed that there was a real danger of bias if the High Court judge presided over her money laundering case since he is also presiding over her ongoing solar project case.
She highlighted how Mohamed Zaini had perused the various witness testimonies and allowed the prosecution to commence impeachment proceedings against her in the solar project trial which could influence the judge’s findings in her money laundering trial.
Prior to the filing of the applications for the judge’s recusal and Sri Ram’s disqualification, Rosmah had previously filed an application to stay proceedings as well.
Rosmah’s lawyer Datuk Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin told the court that it should take matters one thing at a time and that the question of Sri Ram’s fiat should be dealt with first, before the hearing of the two applications for recusal and stay.
“Why don’t the court give us the time to file a proper application against the fiat as we obtained it today.
“Hopefully, this court could see this in a fresh mind. We cannot sacrifice justice at the altar of convenience,” he added.
Sri Ram then informed the court that the prosecution would be objecting to both applications.
He also informed the court that there were amendments to five of her 17 money laundering and tax evasion charges which would have to be read to Rosmah before the trial proceeds.
Following the new development and submissions from parties, Mohamed Zaini said he would adjourn the proceeding to the next hearing date, with the first item on the agenda to be the application seeking Sri Ram’s disqualification.
“If that is dismissed, we will proceed to hear my recusal application. If that too is dismissed, I will hear the stay application.
“The (money laundering and tax evasion trial) will proceed should the stay be also disallowed,” he said.
Hearing has now been fixed for January 24.
Rosmah is facing 12 money laundering charges involving RM7,097,750 and five counts of failing to declare her income to the Inland Revenue Board.
Under the first eight charges, she is accused of being involved in money laundering by directly engaging in a transaction involving proceeds of unlawful activities amounting to RM1.1 million, which was deposited into her account.
For the ninth to the 12th charges, Rosmah is alleged to have directly engaged in 227 transactions involving proceeds of unlawful activities totalling RM6 million that was deposited into the same account.
On the 13th to 17th counts, Rosmah is accused of engaging in money laundering by failing to file a return on the sum that was deposited into her account, as required under the Income Tax Act.
* An earlier version of this article contained an error which has since been rectified.