Rosmah fails again to recuse trial judge from her RM7m money laundering case

·4-min read
Datin Seri Rosmah arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court April 25, 2022. — Picture by Devan Manuel
Datin Seri Rosmah arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court April 25, 2022. — Picture by Devan Manuel

KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 — The High Court has today rejected Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s second bid to recuse the judge hearing her RM7 million money laundering and tax evasion case.

Justice Mohamed Zaini said there has to be an end to making the same applications in court for the public’s sake, as he binned the bid by the wife to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Mohamed Zaini first rejected Rosmah’s application on December 14 last year to recuse him. He is also the same judge hearing Rosmah’s ongoing solar hybrid case trial.

In his decision, Mohamed Zaini pointed out that the only thing new in Rosmah’s application this time was the inclusion of two additional cases of hers in which he is the sitting judge.

“What the applicant had done in including these two cases was to add more colour to her application.

“It is, however, in essence the same, as the grounds submitted are similar in the first application as it pertains to my involvement and decisions made in these cases.

“Public interest demands that there must be a finality to litigation, in that parties should not be allowed to litigate the same issue over and over again.

“The applicant’s application is therefore dismissed,” he said.

In this application, Rosmah contended that Mohamed Zaini would be unduly influenced and may not be able to carry out his judicial function without partiality and biases against her due to him presiding over three other cases — her solar trial, the 1MDB’s forfeiture suit (of which Rosmah is a named respondent) and 1MDB audit report — which was linked to her.

Mohamed Zaini said he was bemused with Rosmah’s second application which had cited both the 1MDB forfeiture suit and audit report cases he presided over, noting that he had previously ruled in favour of her in the forfeiture proceedings on November 2021 whereas the 1MDB audit report tampering trial did not concerned her at all.

“I had in dismissing the applicant’s first application, set out the grounds for dismissal and do not wish to regurgitate it any further.

“I am of the opinion that the applicant is estopped from litigating again the application for recusal. The doctrine of res judicata applies here.

Res judicata is the principle that a cause of action may not be relitigated once it has been judged on the merits.

“The additional arguments that the applicant put forward in respect of the 1MDB forfeiture and 1MDB audit report tampering could have been canvassed in the first application as they were well within the applicant's knowledge at the time that the first application was made,” he said.

The court later granted a stay sought by Rosmah’s defence team pending an appeal to be filed in the Court of Appeal.

Earlier, the prosecution led by Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram did not object to defence lawyer Datuk Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jalamuddin’s request.

As such, the trial dates for the start of Rosmah’s trial pertaining to her money laundering charges this week have been vacated.

In delivering his judgement on dismissing Rosmah’s first application last year, Mohamed Zaini said he took great care to ensure that Rosmah would not be prejudiced in the money laundering case when references were made to the statements in the solar case because a judge was required to consider separately and independently the evidence against the accused.

Rosmah’s appeal over the first failed recusal bid is still pending before the Court of Appeal and has been fixed for case management on May 19.

Previously, the prosecution had contended that Rosmah’s second bid to recuse Mohamed Zaini from presiding over the case is an abuse of court process.

The court also fixed May 24 for mention over Rosmah’s bid to disqualify Sri Ram from acting as the lead prosecutor in her money laundering and tax evasion case.

In this case, Rosmah is facing 12 money laundering charges involving RM7,097,750 and five counts of failure to declare her income to the Inland Revenue Board (LHDN).

The offences were allegedly committed at Affin Bank Berhad, Bangunan Getah Asli branch, Jalan Ampang, here, between December 4, 2013 and June 8, 2017, and at LHDN at Kompleks Bangunan Kerajaan, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim, here, between May 1, 2014 and May 1, 2018.

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