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Prospect of Sri Ram’s disqualification looms, as prosecution told to show letter appointing him to prosecute Rosmah

PUTRAJAYA (April 8): The prosecution in Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor's solar hybrid project graft trial was ordered to produce lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram’s (pictured) employment letter to the defence team, after she challenged the appointment of the former federal court judge to prosecute her.

The Court of Appeal today, led by Justice Datuk Suraya Othman, had given the prosecution three working days to deliver the relevant document to the defence. 

"Yes we concede to the prayers within the application, we will supply the appointment letter to the applicants within the next three days,” deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib said in court today.

"We will supply them with the letter but we will blank out whatever information that is not related to this case," he added. 

Akram later clarified with the media that the letter of employment included information about 10 other cases that were not related to Rosmah, and as such, they will be omitted when it is delivered to the defence team. 

The decision today came after Rosmah appealed against the dismissal by High Court Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan on Aug 19 last year of her application to see Sri Ram's 'fiat' or letter of appointment to lead the prosecution.

Her lawyers, led by Datuk Jagjit Singh, had argued that Sri Ram was appointed by the then Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas to only handle 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)-related cases, and that they had serious concerns over possible abuse of power in the appointment.

On the other hand, the prosecution insisted that the document should not be produced to the defence team, as it contains confidential information protected under the Official Secrets Act. 

They also defended that the appointment was legal and proper according to section 379 of the Criminal Procedure Code. 

Following intense deliberations during submissions of the appeal today, Justice Suraya, who led the three-member panel, instructed Akram to produce the document only for the judges to evaluate whether it meets the requirement set by the defence team. 

The other Court of Appeal judges in the panel were Datuk Abu Bakar Jais and Datuk Ghazali Cha. 

Jagjit earlier told the court that he requires the document to state the date of Sri Ram’s appointment – which he said must be prior to Nov 15, 2018, the date when Rosmah was first charged in court – and must explain Sri Ram’s scope of appointment, as well as be signed by the then AG Thomas.

Prior to revealing the document, Suraya said if the document met the requirements, she would compel Jagjit to withdraw the appeal but if it did not, the panel judges would allow the appeal by Rosmah to proceed. 

"There was indeed a letter pertaining to the appointment of Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram to conduct the prosecution of the appellant (Rosmah) but that letter was dated on July 8, 2020, that is after the appellant was charged in court and that letter was signed by the present AG Tan Sri Idrus Harun. 

"On that score, two of the three conditions which Jagjit had asked for have not been met," she said, after the bench collectively evaluated the document. 

Following this, Akram eventually yielded and committed to releasing the document to the defence. 

When met with reporters outside the court, Jagjit, who appeared with Datuk Akberdin Abdul Kader, opined that the prosecution's case should be annulled and that he will make appropriate applications to the High Court, following the decision of the Court of Appeal today. 

"All the conduct of Sri Ram throughout the prosecution case, therefore in our view, is a nullity because he was never appointed. And now, the issue that is disturbing us is whether we have to apply for a retrial.

"It's not a question of victory, we are looking at the interest of justice, and justice as we said, is not only for the state; it's also for the accused person. She (Rosmah) is facing three charges; surely she should know whether the person who's going to appear for the prosecution has been duly authorised, that's all," he said. 

However, Jagjit noted that the call for defence may not be reversed because according to the High Court judge, a prima facie case has been established and as such, all points brought up by the prosecution so far have to be rebutted in the defence. 

On Feb 18, Justice Zaini ordered Rosmah to enter her defence over all three graft charges in relation to a solar hybrid project for 369 rural schools in Sarawak, after 23 prosecution witnesses testified against her.

The wife of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was charged with soliciting a RM187.5 million bribe out of a total of RM1.25 billion project that was awarded to then Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin between January to April 2016, through her aide Datuk Rizal Mansor.

She also faces two charges of receiving a total of RM6.5 million — RM1.5 million and RM5 million — from Saidi between Dec 20, 2016 and Sept 7, 2017 at her official residence in Seri Perdana, Putrajaya and also her private residence in Jalan Langgak Duta.

Rosmah had opted to testify under oath from the witness stand, which means she can be cross-examined by the prosecution, after she gives evidence in her defence. Sri Ram had previously said that he will take up the torch of cross-examining Rosmah. 

The defence case has been fixed to start on June 9, where typically, the accused will be the first defence witness called. 

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