AG’s discretion to appoint private lawyers to prosecute Najib, former leaders

26 Mar 2019 / 13:38 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has defended former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram’s appointment as the lead prosecutor in Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s corruption case involving 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong said the Attorney-General (AG) has discretionary powers as enshrined under the country’s laws to appoint a private lawyer to oversee a case, and not stick with deputy public prosecutors from the chamber.

“I would like to stress that under the Federal Constitution, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Interpretation Acts 1948 and 1967, it is stated that the AG has the right to appoint lawyers who are not from the AG’s Chamber (AGC) to prosecute a case.

“This is enshrined under our laws, and it is the AG’s jurisdiction to determine (whether or not to appoint a private prosecutor),” he told the Dewan Rakyat, here today.

Liew was responding to a question from Hassan Abdul Karim (PH-Pasir Gudang) if the AGC lacked credible, competent and capable deputy public prosecutors to prosecute Najib and other former leader.

“Do they not have capable ones that they need to hire the services of private lawyers like Sri Ram and (former Malaysian Bar president) Sulaiman Abdullah to try those cases,” he had asked.

Sulaiman and Sri Ram were last year appointed by AG Tommy Thomas as prosecutors to handle the SRC International and 1MDB cases, respectively.

Earlier this month, the High Court, dismissed Najib’s bid to recuse Sri Ram from leading the prosecution team against him, claiming there was no evidence to show that the lawyer would be biased in the handling of the case.

The Court of Appeal will hear Najib’s appeal to disqualify Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor on April 10.

Meanwhile, Liew said a report on the separation of powers between the AG and Public Prosecutor, that was promised as part of Pakatan Harapan election pledge, was currently being prepared and would be tabled to the cabinet by the middle of this year.

He said a working committee has been formed to prepare the report and submit its recommendations for the Cabinet’s deliberation.

“Amendments to the Federal Constitution, Criminal Procedure Code and Interpretation Acts 1948 and 1967, as well as other relevant laws, will be covered in the study,“ he added.

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