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Ex-Malaysian PM’s Wife Misses First Day of Graft Trial, Cites ‘Life-Threatening’ Illness

Hadi Azmi and Noah Lee
Kuala Lumpur
2020-02-03
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Rosmah Mansor leaves the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex after being indicted on bribery charges, April 10, 2019.
Rosmah Mansor leaves the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex after being indicted on bribery charges, April 10, 2019.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

The start of a long-awaited corruption trial against Rosmah Mansor, the wife of the ex-Malaysian prime minister, was postponed for two days when she failed to show up on Monday and her attorney claimed she was suffering from a “life-threatening” illness.

The former first lady, who is facing charges over allegations that she had sought a multimillion-dollar bribe in connection with a solar-hybrid power project in Sarawak state, was to appear before Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan for the opening of her trial. Instead, her attorneys were present without Rosmah.

Apologizing on his client’s behalf, defense lawyer Jagjit Singh handed a letter to the judge from a medical professional stating that Rosmah was suffering from chronic adrenal issues, which could lead to Addisonian crisis. The court did not release the name of the doctor, described as an orthopedic and trauma surgeon at a private medical center in the nation’s capital.

“Based on searches through Google, complications faced by my client can be life threatening,” Jagjit said as he handed Zaini a document containing search results on the condition.

The letter also stated that Rosmah, 68, suffered from severe neck pain and osteoarthritis in both knees. The physician advised her to rest for one to two weeks from the date of the letter, Feb. 2.

Zaini responded that the request was wasting the court’s time and he ordered Rosmah to appear on Wednesday.

“Can I suggest that your client comes in a wheelchair,” he told the attorney. “I understand she has to sit on a hard bench, which may not be good for her condition, so I will allow her to come in a wheelchair.”

The judge also said he would allow for short breaks during the trial as needed.

“These dates are very precious to me. If I were to know that this would happen, I would have scheduled other cases today. I am very sorry for your client, but I also cannot postpone this trial much longer.”

Lead deputy public prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram also questioned Rosmah’s health issues, calling the defense request a last-minute attempt to stall the proceedings.

“I also have those,” said Sri Ram, 76, in response to Rosmah’s medical issues.

The only thing Rosmah is suffering from is “an overdose of publicity and wealth,” he said, while suggesting the court cancel her bail.

Rosmah is facing two counts of graft under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act for allegedly asking for 187.5 million ringgit ($45.56 million) and receiving 1.5 million ringgit ($364,500) for helping Jepak Holdings win a contract valued at 1.25 billion ringgit to supply hybrid solar systems to 369 schools in Sarawak. She posted 1 million ringgit ($243,000) bail when the charges were filed in November 2018.

She also faces five charges for failure to declare income to Malaysia Income Tax Revenue Board and 12 money laundering charges.

Former aide Rizal Mansor, who also was charged in the Jepak Holdings case, saw the complaint against him dismissed in January as court officials said he could be called as a prosecution witness.

Loss of power

Charges against Rosmah were filed after her husband, former Prime Minister Najib Razak, lost power in May 2018 when the upstart Pakatan Harapan defeated the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in the general election.

Najib is standing trial in two different courts on several of the 42 charges he faces linked to the beleaguered state development fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad and its subsidiary, SRC International. Malaysian and U.S. prosecutors allege that at least $4.56 billion (18.8 billion ringgit) was stolen from 1MDB and the subsidiary and diverted through acquisitions of real estate, artwork and luxury properties by Najib and his associates.

Shortly after the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad took power, police raided Najib properties, seizing jewelry, handbags, cash and documents valued at $273 million (1.1 billion ringgit). The items included 117 million ringgit ($28.4 million) in cash in different currencies, luxury handbags, designer Swiss-made watches and 12,000 pieces of jewelry.

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