Ahead of decision today, a retrospective of Rosmah’s RM1.25b solar power project corruption trial

·5-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 — After a protracted trial lasting over two years, the High Court is finally set to deliver its findings today in Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s corruption case involving an RM1.25 billion solar hybrid energy project for rural schools in Sarawak.

Charged in November 2018, Rosmah faces one count of soliciting RM187.5 million and another two of receiving bribes totalling RM6.5 million from Jepak Holdings’ former managing director, Saidi Abang Samsudin.

Yet it was not until February 2020 that Rosmah’s highly-anticipated bribery-for-contract trial formally began, with lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram describing the 70-year-old as an “overbearing” person and her conduct in the alleged corruption scandal.

In their opening statement, the prosecution portrayed Rosmah’s domineering nature as having allowed her to influence decisions in the public sector, with direct and circumstantial evidence presented to show she solicited a bribe and received gratification as alleged in the charges against her.

After 42 days of hearing, trial judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan then ordered Rosmah to enter her defence in February 2021, after concluding that the prosecution successfully established prima facie.

The defence rested its case in February 2022, a year after she was called to take the stand.

All in, the prosecution called 23 witnesses and the defence called two including Rosmah.

11th hour bid to recuse trial judge

In an unexpected twist, however, Rosmah made an 11th-hour bid to recuse Mohamad Zaini from hearing or making any decision or order related to her bribery trial, as well as any related proceedings or applications.

The application was filed on August 30, just two days before today’s decision.

In her application to remove Mohamed Zaini, Rosmah cited an August 26 article that appeared on the Malaysia Today website associated with fugitive blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, which claimed the written judgment was prepared beforehand by persons unknown for the trial judge to deliver.

Rosmah alleged that the article has made her lose confidence in Mohamed Zaini as the presiding judge in the case and the impartiality of today’s decision.

She also referred to a 71-page document published August 26 on Malaysia Today that purported to be a leak of the written judgment.

She said this made her doubt Mohamed Zaini’s integrity and ability to judge fairly without influence from a third party.

While Malaysia Today claimed the 71-page document to be the written judgment, the document itself stated that it was prepared by the judiciary’s research unit to provide notes on the case to Mohamed Zaini.

Court officials have since lodged a formal complaint, and police have confirmed that the case is being investigated under the Official Secrets Act and Section 203A of the Penal Code for illegal disclosure of confidential information.

Rosmah’s defence

During the defence stage that started in October 2021, Rosmah’s lawyer argued in their opening statement that their client was made a “scapegoat” by incompetent parties including her former aide, Datuk Seri Rizal Mansor, in their process to allegedly enrich themselves through corrupt means.

Taking the witness stand in her own defence, Rosmah had vehemently denied all the charges against her.

She also alleged that it was Rizal’s own initiative to solicit bribes from Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd to secure the project, yet he blamed her and subsequently slandered her in the process with his inaccurate testimony in court as a prosecution witness.

Rosmah further stated that Rizal’s testimony was intended to smear her good name and credibility as the wife of a former prime minister, through an “inter alia deal” with the prosecution to withdraw the charges laid against him and subsequently act as a “crown witness” for it in the proceedings.

She had also broken down in tears while on the stand as she insisted the charges against her were malicious prosecution, before accusing five other prosecution witnesses of scapegoating her in a bid to cover up their own shame and corrupt acts linked to the project.

The prosecution witnesses included former education minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, former education secretaries-general Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad and Datuk Seri Alias Ahmad, along with Rizal and Saidi.

Other than herself, Rosmah’s only other defence witness was Datuk Seri Siti Azizah Sheikh Abod, the department head of the “First Lady of Malaysia Department” that had been parked under the Prime Minister’s Office during the administration of her husband Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Rosmah initially intended to call Najib to testify but decided otherwise after her team felt Najib’s testimony would be corroborative of matters already established in court previously.

Corroborating Rosmah’s testimony, Siti Azizah testified she had found Rizal lacking in the writing department and said on several occasions he had exceeded his scope of duties and operated behind her back.

During the course of her trial, Rosmah also repeatedly denied that the voices in the “Can I advise you something?” audio clips were that of her and Najib, insisting it could not be proven that they were the two speakers recorded.

The clip was part of a series of audio recordings the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission released publicly in January 2020.

Previously, however, Mahdzir had identified the speakers as Najib and Rosmah when the clip was played in court.

The bribes were allegedly received through her former aide turned prosecution witness Datuk Rizal Mansor, as a reward for helping Jepak Holdings secure the Hybrid Photovoltaic Solar System Integrated Project as well as the maintenance and operation of diesel generator sets for 369 Sarawak rural schools worth RM1.25 billion from the Education Ministry through direct negotiation.