Najib’s 1MDB audit tampering trial expected to start tomorrow

Najib Razak faces one charge of tampering with the 1MDB final audit report while former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda is accused of abetting him.

KUALA LUMPUR: The third trial of criminal charges faced by former prime minister Najib Razak at the High Court here is expected to commence tomorrow.

Najib is facing a charge of tampering with the 1MDB final audit report together with former 1MDB chief executive officer (CEO) Arul Kanda Kandasamy.

He is currently preparing to enter his defence in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case, in which he is charged with seven counts of misappropriating RM42 million. His defence will start on Dec 3.

Najib, 66, is also being tried on four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount. The trial is set to resume on Jan 6.

Whether or not the third trial will proceed tomorrow depends on the decision of judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan as he will first deliver his decision on Najib’s application for the trial date to be moved to Jan 13.

Before this, Zaini had directed all parties to be prepared for the trial if he disallowed the application. The judge had fixed tomorrow to Nov 29 and Jan 13 to 17 for the hearing.

Ahmad Akram Gharib, one of the deputy public prosecutors in the team, said the prosecution is ready with three to five witnesses if the judge decides to begin the trial tomorrow.

Former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram is leading the prosecution team together with DPPs Nik Suhaimi Nik Sulaiman, Mohammad Al-Saifi Hashim, Ahmad Akram, Rozaliana Zakaria, Mohamad Mustaffa P Kunyalam, Hazmida Harris Lee, Nadia Zulkefli, Tan Song Yan, Fatimah Hannah Abd Wahab, Munira Syahirah Mohamad Kamal, Nur Syakirin Yaccob and Wafa Zainal Abidin.

Najib is represented by counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Harvinderjit Singh, Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed, Muhammad Farhan Muhammad Shafee and Syahirah Hanapiah, while Arul Kanda, 43, is represented by counsel N. Sivananthan, Jasmine Cheong and Dhanyaa Shreeya Sukumar.

In his application filed on Wednesday, Najib said that if the audit report tampering trial was to proceed as scheduled, he would suffer prejudice as he and his lawyers would require sufficient time to prepare for his defence in the SRC case.

He said his defence team was also involved in the ongoing 1MDB case, which began on Aug 28.

Arul Kanda objected to the application, saying the court should look at the interest of all the accused persons, and not just one accused. He asked the court to proceed with the trial as he wanted to be given an opportunity to vindicate himself.

On Jan 4, the Sessions Court granted the prosecution’s application for the cases involving Najib and Arul Kanda to be heard together.

Najib was charged on Dec 12 last year with using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report before it was tabled to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to avoid any action against him.

He was charged with using his position as a public officer, which was as the prime minister, to evade disciplinary, civil or criminal action against him in connection with 1MDB, by ordering alterations to the final audit report before it was tabled to the PAC, which he directly had interest in.

He was accused of committing the offence at the Prime Minister’s Department Complex in Putrajaya between Feb 22 and 26, 2016.

The charge is framed under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, which carries a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

Arul Kanda was charged with abetting Najib in making amendments to the report to protect Najib from being subjected to disciplinary, civil or criminal action in connection with 1MDB, at the same place and time.

The charge is in accordance with Section 28 (1) (c) of the MACC Act 2009 read with Section 23 (1) & 24 (1) of the same Act, which provides for similar punishment, if found guilty.