Face-off: Sri Ram and Muhammad Shafee first fought each other during Anwar’s Sodomy II case before the Federal Court in 2013.
PETALING JAYA: The charging of Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah with Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram over at the prosecution side will see a return of the clash of legal titans.
The two fought each other during Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II case before the Federal Court in 2013, with Muhammad Shafee leading the prosecution and Sri Ram as chief architect of Anwar’s defence team.
This time, it will be Muhammad Shafee in the dock over accusations that he received money from the proceeds of illegal activities.
Veteran defence lawyer N. Sivananthan said the second Sri Ram vs Muhammad Shafee battle was sure to be as exciting, even though Muhammad Shafee would be represented by his defence team.
“If Shafee is ordered to enter his defence, he will be a witness subject to questioning by Sri Ram directly,” he said.
Sivananthan said although the two had “history”, none could bring up “old arguments” and that Sri Ram would be bound by the evidence and line of questioning required to prove the case.
Sri Ram and Muhammad Shafee had faced each other when Sri Ram was a Court of Appeal judge and Muhammad Shafee a defence lawyer, and even when Sri Ram was a defence lawyer against Muhammad Shafee who acted as a deputy public prosecutor.
The Sodomy II case stretches its shadow here, as Anwar has a civil suit pending against Muhammad Shafee on the allegation that the latter took RM9.5mil to act as prosecutor in his sodomy appeal between 2013 and 2014.
In relation to his criminal case, Muhammad Shafee said he would apply to recuse Sri Ram, citing conflict of interest as Sri Ram was representing Anwar in the said civil suit.
“Shafee was a defence lawyer called to be a prosecutor (in Anwar’s Sodomy II appeal), and now he’s on the other end of it.
“Everyone is just doing their job, the case depends on the strength of the evidence regardless of who is prosecuting,” said Sivananthan.
Another pertinent issue is whether Muhammad Shafee can continue to represent former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in a money-laundering case linked to the 1MDB scandal.
As of August, Najib is faced with charges of receiving RM42mil from illegal activities, in addition to related accusations of bribery and breach of trust.
Sivananthan said the proper thing for Muhammad Shafee to do was to recuse himself from Najib’s case, to avoid being put in an awkward position where Najib might become a witness in Muhammad Shafee’s case.
This is because the charge sheet in Muhammad Shafee’s case states that the RM9.5mil in cheques were received from Najib, thus Najib would likely appear as a prosecution witness in the trial of Muhammad Shafee.
However, Muhammad Shafee said yesterday that he would not have to recuse himself as defence counsel, claiming this criminal case would not affect his position.
Sri Ram, who retired as a Federal Court judge on Feb 16, 2010, was also a Court of Appeal judge for 15 years, and is known for his oratory skills and landmark judgments relating to public, contract and industrial laws.
Muhammad Shafee, on the other hand, is known for his expertise in commercial, drug-trafficking and extradition cases, often also appearing in cases related to Barisan Nasional.