Najib to seek release from tampering audit report charge

Datuk Seri Najib Razak (left) and Arul Kanda.
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

KUALA LUMPUR - Datuk Seri Najib Razak will be seeking a release from a charge of tampering with the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) final audit report that he is facing with former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy, who allegedly abetted the former prime minister.

Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told the High Court that the defence intended to make the application based on the cross-examination conducted on former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa.

The lawyer said the cross-examination revealed that the 1MDB audit report was still in the drafting stage and had yet to be finalised for it to be presented to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

“The crux of our cross-examination on the witness was that there is nothing wrong with requesting to amend the audit report that is yet to be finalised,” he said yesterday.

This meant his client did not commit any offence that warranted a criminal charge against him.

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The court had earlier heard from lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, who said the prosecution was amending a portion of the charge sheet which stated “before the audit report was finalised and tabled to the PAC” to “after the audit report was re-finalised and tabled to the PAC”.

Shafee objected to this, saying that the prosecution had amended the charges against Najib and Arul Kanda at the beginning of the trial by alleging that Najib had abused his position and caused amendments to the 1MDB audit report before it was finalised and tabled to the PAC.

“Now the prosecution wants to say that the then auditor-general had finalised the audit report before it was amended.

"This would be unfair to my client,” he said, adding that the amendment on the charge would “drastically” change the prosecution’s stance.

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Shafee also said the defence was mulling an application under Section 173(g) of the Criminal Procedure Code that the charge was groundless.Section 173(g) states that the court could discharge an accused at any stage of the case if it considers the charge to be groundless.

Sri Ram said the prosecution’s case was focused on Najib allegedly using his position under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 over the audit report.

“Based on the evidence from former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, (audit director) Datuk Nor Salwani and (retired audit director) Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad, our case has always been the same – that the report was not a draft.

“So we are not springing anything new on the defence. As far as we are concerned, there is no significant change to the charge, ” Sri Ram said.

Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan said he would adjourn the proceedings and vacate the hearing dates this week for parties to prepare their submissions.

He then fixed June 24 to hear the submissions.