Ongoing trials postponed

PETALING JAYA: Ongoing 1MDB-related trials and the appeal by Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor on her corruption conviction will be handled by full-time deputy public prosecutors (DPPs), says Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun.

“The present team will handle the prosecution,” said Idrus when contacted by The Star yesterday.

Idrus was responding to rumours that a private law firm will be replacing former federal court judge and lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, who passed away on Sunday.

Previously, Sri Ram had worked together with DPPs from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) in two 1MDB-related trials and Rosmah’s appeal on her corruption conviction.

Sri Ram was appointed lead prosecutor for these trials by Idrus’s predecessor Tan Sri Tommy Thomas back in 2018.

Former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak, 70, is on trial for 25 charges in total - four for abuse of power that allegedly brought him financial benefit to the tune of RM2.28bil; and 21 for money laundering involving the same amount.

The current prosecution team for the 1MDB trial is led by DPP Ahmad Akram Gharib.

However, it is not confirmed if Ahmad Akram will be taking over the lead in Rosmah’s graft case.

When met at the Kuala Lumpur Court complex earlier yesterday after proceedings ended, he confirmed that he is leading the prosecution in 1MDB for the time being but refused to comment further.

Sri Ram was also lead prosecutor in another 1MDB audit tampering trial involving Najib and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy.

On March 3, a ruling will be delivered on whether Najib and Arul will have to enter their defence.

Meanwhile, Rosmah was found guilty in September last year on three corruption charges in connection with a RM1.25bil project to provide solar hybrid energy to 369 schools in Sarawak.

She is appealing to disqualify High Court Judge Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan as the trial judge, as well as to set aside her conviction and sentence.

Sri Ram was also tasked with prosecuting Rosmah, who is facing 12 money laundering charges worth RM7mil and five charges of failing to declare her income to the Inland Revenue Board.

Meanwhile, the proceedings at the 1MDB trial yesterday were a sombre affair following the death of Sri Ram, who was described by his team members as “a father figure”.

Ahmad Akram asked High Court judge Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah for the proceedings to be adjourned yesterday and today in light of Sri Ram’s demise.

He said Sri Ram’s wake and cremation ceremony would be held later today.

“All of us in the prosecution team are seeking your permission to vacate the matter for Monday and Tuesday to allow us to attend both functions (Sri Ram’s wake and cremation).

“He was our boss, our team leader and he was like a father to all of us,” said the distraught prosecutor.

Today is set for a continued hearing where prosecution witness Joanna Yu, who was Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s former relationship manager at AmBank, was supposed to take the stand.

Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told the court that the defence had no objection to the adjournment.

“I would absolutely have no objection whatsoever,” he said.

Muhammad Shafee also extended his condolences to the prosecution team.

Justice Sequerah then allowed the adjournment.

“This trial will resume on Thursday with the continued cross-examination of Yu,” he said.

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