The third trial of criminal charges faced by former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak at the High Court here is expected to commence tomorrow.
Najib is facing a charge of tampering with 1Malaysia Development Bhd's (1MDB) final audit report together with 1MDB former chief executive officer (CEO) Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
The Pekan MP is currently preparing to enter his defence in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case, in which he was charged with seven charges of misappropriating RM42 million in SRC funds at another High Court. His defence will resume on Dec 3.
Najib, 66, is also being tried for 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 in a different court. The trial is set to resume on Jan 6 next year.
Whether or not the third trial would proceed tomorrow depends on the decision of judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan as he will first deliver his decision on Najib’s application for the audit report tampering trial dates to be vacated and to be moved to Jan 13, 2020.
Prior to this, Mohamed Zaini had directed all parties to be prepared with the trial if he disallowed the application. The judge had also fixed Nov 18 to 29 this year and Jan 13 to 17, 2020 for the trial.
Ahmad Akram Gharib, one of deputy public prosecutors in the team, when contacted, said that the prosecution is ready with three to five formal witnesses if the judge decided to begin the trial on Monday.
Former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram is leading the prosecution team together with deputy public prosecutors 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 counsels Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Harvinderjit Singh, Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed, Muhammad Farhan Muhammad Shafee and Syahirah Hanapiah, while Arul Kanda, 43, is represented by counsels N Sivananthan, Jasmine Cheong and Dhanyaa Shreeya Sukumar.
In his application filed on Nov 13, 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 a reasonable and sufficient amount of time to prepare for his defence in the SRC case.
He also stated in the application that his defence team, at the same time, was also involved in the preparation of the other ongoing 1MDB case which began on Aug 28.
Najib’s application, however, had been objected by Arul Kanda who urged the court to look at the interest of all the accused persons, not just one accused, and asked the court to proceed with the trial as he wanted to be given an opportunity to vindicate himself.
On Jan 4 this year, the Sessions Court granted the prosecution’s application for the cases involving Najib and Arul Kanda to be heard together.
On Dec 12, 2018, Najib was charged 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, in his capacity as a public officer, which was as the prime minister, with using the position to obtain gratification for himself, which was to evade disciplinary, civil or criminal action against him in connection with 1MDB, by ordering alterations to the 1MDB final audit report before it was finalised and tabled to the PAC, where he directly had interest in.
Najib was accused of committing the offence at the Prime Minister’s Department Complex, Federal Government’s Administrative Centre, the Federal Territory of 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 maximum 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 and 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.