KUALA LUMPUR: The corruption trial involving Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor got off to a fiery start with her lawyer accusing the prosecution of character assassinating his client even before any evidence had been presented against her.
Rosmah’s lawyer Datuk Jagjit Singh said it was unbecoming of the prosecution to label his client with remarks about her character in their opening statement just for the sake of seeking adverse publicity in the media.
“I wish to object to some of the terms they have used in the opening statement against Rosmah.
“An opening statement is not a license to defame a person. It should be confined to the nature of the offence and used to lay down the facts of the case,” he said immediately after lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram had finished reading the document.
However, Sri Ram countered by saying that it was important for the prosecution to show Rosmah’s role in the corruption case she was facing.
He said the prosecution needed to explain how it planned to present its case and denied any malice in the contents of the opening statement.
“There is no character assassination. The conduct of the accused must be established right from the beginning,” he said.
Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan later ruled that he had no intention to dictate how the prosecution should conduct their case and shot down Jagjit’s request for some words describing Rosmah’s character in the opening statement to be expunged.
“I don’t want to jump the gun at this stage,” he said.
Earlier, Sri Ram started his case by stating that Rosmah was the wife of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
“By herself, she occupied no official position. However, she wielded considerable influence because of her overbearing nature.
“She placed herself in a position where she was able to influence decisions in the public sector,” he said.
Sri Ram said the prosecution will show how the accused used her influence to obtain a project to provide solar energy to 369 rural schools in Sarawak in return for a bribe.
Rosmah, 69, is facing three counts of soliciting RM187.5 million and receiving a bribe of RM6.5 million from Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin, through her former aide, Datuk Rizal Mansor for projects to provide solar energy to 369 rural schools in Sarawak.
Sri Ram said the prosecution will adduce direct and circumstantial evidence to show the active role played by Rosmah to obtain the project for Jepak Holdings.
He painted a picture on how Saidi had initially sought the contract by approaching the then Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid but it was rejected.
After an unfruitful attempt with the minister, Sri Ram said Saidi had approached one Aazmey Abu Talib, who is Najib’s friend.
“With Aazmey’s help, Saidi managed to get a minute from Najib to support his application to obtain the contract but this did not help speed up matters with the Ministry of Education.
“They then turned to the accused whom they managed to contact through Rizal,” he said.
Rizal then arranged a meeting at Rosmah’s house at Jalan Langgak Duta between January and April 2016 where a large sum of money was offered to the accused in return for her help to secure the project.
“An offer of a political donation was also made to the accused’s husband as a gesture of gratitude for supporting the application.
“It is important to note that the accused did not hold any position of responsibility in any political party at that time," he said.
Sri Ram said it was clear that the accused knew that the so-called “political donation” was meant as a bribe for her.
"The payment was contingent on her using her influence to obtain the solar hybrid contract for Saidi’s company," he said.
Sri Ram said the prosecution will also show that Rosmah had in December 2016 received RM5 million in cash which was delivered at her official residence in Putrajaya.
"The solar contract was executed on June 20, 2017. The Ministry of Education then deliv
ered a series of payments to Jepak.
"Later, Saidi delivered RM1.5 million in cash to the accused at her Langgak Duta home on September 7 2017," he said.
The lead prosecutor said after the meeting, Rosmah increased the sum of the 'political donation' to RM187.5 million which works out to 15 per cent of the value of the project which was RM1.25 billion.
He said Rosmah used Rizal to make her demands and to negotiate the bribe that was to be paid to her.
"Initially she wanted 17 per cent of the value of the project which works out to a sum in excess of RM200 million and she agreed to accept 15 per cent upon Rizal’s advice," he said.
He said subsequently, a sham agreement was drawn up by one Lawrence Tee to disguise the payment and conceal the name of the real recipient of the money.
Sri Ram said direct and circumstantial evidence will be led to prove that the Rosmah was actuated by a corrupt intention at all material times.