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Court of Appeal rejects Shafee's bid to introduce ex-AG's affidavit as evidence to recuse Sri Ram from prosecuting him

KUALA LUMPUR (March 1): Senior lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah today failed in his application to introduce new evidence — an affidavit by former Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali — in his bid to recuse former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram from leading the prosecution in his RM9.5 million money laundering case.

The Court of Appeal, presided by a three-member bench led by Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, unanimously rejected Shafee's application based on Section 61 of the Courts of Judicature Act.

However, the panel judges, who included Justices Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera and Datuk Che Mohd Ruzima Ghazali, allowed other evidences to be introduced, including a copy of Sri Ram's letter of appointment as ad hoc prosecutor, as well as affidavits by former AG Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki and Sri Ram from previous judicial review proceedings.

On Apr 22, 2019, High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah dismissed Shafee's application on the grounds that it was "more or less similar" with his decision on a similar application by former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak in a separate case on March 1 the same year.

Among others, Sequerah said the court did not find any merit to suggest that Sri Ram was involved in the investigations on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)-related cases, or that he would be biased against Shafee when handling the case, as suggested by the defence.

Shafee had filed the application to disqualify Sri Ram as he claimed the former judge was biased against him and Najib.

The claim of bias stemmed from the "revelation" made by Apandi in June last year, which was later filed as the aforementioned affidavit, that Sri Ram was sent to see him in January 2018 by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to persuade him to arrest then prime minister Najib.

Sri Ram was roped in as a senior deputy public prosecutor on a part-time basis in August 2018 to assist 1MDB-related cases, according to a statement by Thomas at that time.

All of the numerous attempts by Shafee, Najib, as well as the latter's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, to dispute Sri Ram's appointment as a public prosecutor have been rejected by the courts so far.

The application by Najib was also first dismissed by Sequerah, and the decision was upheld by both the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court.

In this case, Shafee is facing two counts of money laundering and two counts of making false statements involving RM9.5 million received from Najib in 2013 and 2014.

If convicted, he is liable to a fine not exceeding RM5 million or a jail sentence of up to five years, or both.

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