'1MDB audit report revelation is political, could be contempt of court'

Modified 25 Nov 2018, 11:19 pm

Shafee & Co, the law firm acting for former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, today claimed that the auditor-general Madinah Mohamad's revelation that Najib had asked for the audit report on 1MDB to be altered was political in nature.

It noted that Madinah's statement revealing the alteration was made on the instruction of the cabinet.

"By her own admission, the auditor-general's press statement which was unusually released to the public on a Sunday morning was made under orders of the cabinet.

"This seems to indicate that there were political undercurrent and considerations taken for the decision to issue the said press statement," the firm said in a statement tonight.

It said the auditor-general's statement, without other accompanying documents, would give the impression of a cover-up, thus influencing Najib's upcoming graft trials related to 1MDB.

"The auditor-general’s press statement read by any ordinary person without the benefit of all the documents and testimony pertaining to 1MDB, suggests that our client had attempted to cover up the alleged wrongdoings in 1MDB and of Jho Low.

"This can only be interpreted as an attempt to influence public opinion and to prejudice our client before the trial which could amount to contempt of court as there are elements of attempt to prejudice our clients intended defences," it added.

Shafee & Co said it acknowledged the importance of public disclosure but any statements made, especially by the government, should take into account Najib's rights so that he is guaranteed a free trial without political interference.

"It is important to note that at no point was our client contacted by the auditor-general’s office for an explanation before their press statement was issued.

"Therefore, our client was never given a chance to respond beforehand to the auditors intended press release and therefore, another serious breach of natural justice," said the law firm.

More concerning, it said, was the disclosure by Madinah (photo) that the matter had been forwarded to the police and MACC for investigation.

"While this may be the right of any person to lodge any police report, we question the motive of disclosing this matter prematurely.

"We, therefore, take the position that the press statement is not only premature but against due process as the press statement has effectively publicly accused our client first and investigate later.

"We strongly urge the relevant authority to exercise a greater degree of responsibility in future statements made pertaining to our client, and allow the natural process of justice to take place in a fair and equal manner consonant with the promise made by the current government that due process and the rule of law will be observed in order to give everyone a fair trial.

Earlier today, Madinah confirmed that Najib had summoned her predecessor Ambrin Buang on Feb 22, 2016, and instructed certain parts of the report to be expunged. 

She added that Najib's private secretary Shukry Mohd Salleh had also instructed the mentions of businessperson Low Taek Jho, a central figure in the 1MDB scandal, to be removed.