KUALA LUMPUR (May 24): Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor will now have to declare her assets before her trial for 17 counts of money laundering is heard, after the High Court here dismissed today her application to strike out the asset declaration notice.
High Court Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan dismissed Rosmah's application to strike out the notice for her to declare her assets pursuant to Sections 49(1)(a) and 49(3) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.
When delivering the decision, Justice Zaini said Rosmah should not be afraid that her defence will be affected or that the information she gives in the asset declaration notice would be used against her in respect of these charges.
"The applicant's (Rosmah's) argument that she would be precluded from a right to a fair trial is therefore speculative and unmeritorious," Justice Zaini said.
He said the court also accepted the prosecution's argument that Section 49(1)(a) of the Act pertains to its power of investigation, and that the purpose for the section is to assist the prosecution in identifying assets belonging to a person suspected of money laundering.
"The applicant's claim to a right to silence and privilege against self-discrimination is a right that will be accorded to her during a trial, and does not, in this case, extend to what I deem as a pre-trial process.
"I would again take solace with the prosecution's repeated assurance, that the investigation process here has no bearing with the 17 charges currently faced by the applicant," Justice Zaini said.
He also agreed with the prosecution that the right to remain silent and the privilege against self-discrimination are not constitutionally-guaranteed rights.
He stressed that some flexibility is necessary to strike a balance between the public interest and the right of an accused.
He added that the Act was formulated to address the blight of money laundering.
"The authorities must be given the leverage to conduct their investigations effectively, such as identifying the assets belonging to a person suspected of money laundering.
"Revealing one's assets does not predicate guilt on the part of the person accused of money laundering. The presumption of innocence still applies to the applicant as the burden is still on the prosecution to establish guilt at a trial if it comes to that," Justice Zaini assured.
Rosmah had earlier claimed trial to the 17 counts of money laundering, and for failing to declare her income, involving more than RM7 million, to the Inland Revenue Board.
The prosecution had last November filed a notice of motion under Sections 49(1)(a) and 49(3) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001, which compels Rosmah to reveal her movable and immovable assets before the trial commences.
Failure for to abide by the notice that was issued to her under Sections 49(1)(a) and 49(3) will subject Rosmah to a maximum fine of RM3 million or five years' jail or both if she did not comply by giving the list of her assets within 30 days.
Today, Rosmah's lawyer Reza Rahim applied for a stay to reply to the notice pending his client's appeal.
Justice Zaini, however, said he had no jurisdiction to make any order regarding the stay, as the matter involved a declaratory order.
The judge then asked the defence to seek an extension of time to answer the notice from the prosecution, but former federal court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, who led the prosecution team, replied that he received no instruction from the Attorney General.
Earlier, Justice Zaini also fixed May 30 to deliver his decision on whether to consolidate the trial of Rosmah's 17 money laundering charges and her first solar project bribery case together with her former aide Datuk Rizal Mansor's solar project graft case.
On Nov 15 last year, Rosmah pleaded not guilty at the Sessions Court here to two counts of receiving bribes, totalling RM1.5 million, for the implementation of the project to supply and install solar energy at 369 rural schools in Sarawak two years ago.
Rosmah was not present in today's proceedings as she was attending prayers for the late Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang.
Her non-attendance had been granted when her lawyers wrote in to ask for the court's permission.