Court rejects Najib’s request to postpone, trial commences.
In a surprise turn of events, the prosecution in the 1MDB audit report tampering case gave notice to the High Court today that Najib Razak’s co-accused, Arul Kanda Kandasamy, would be called to give evidence, sparking protest from the former prime minister’s lawyer.
Ad hoc prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram told trial judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan that the public prosecutor would apply in writing under Section 63 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act to call Arul to testify on the prosecution’s behalf.
“We will be addressing the court on this part of the case at the appropriate stage,” he said.
Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who is representing Najib, said this was unconstitutional and that he would address the matter at the right time.
“I reserve my rights on the matter as using Section 63 is unconstitutional,” he said.
Meanwhile, lawyer N Sivananthan, who is appearing for Arul, said the disclosure was tantamount to throwing a bombshell, adding that use of the provision was unheard of.
“I can’t recall if this provision has been used before by the prosecution in any other case,” he told reporters later.
Sivananthan also said he would apply to the trial judge to drop the charge against his client after Arul completes his testimony, should the prosecution invoke the provision.
Section 63 states that whenever two or more persons are charged with an offence, the court may, on an application in writing by the public prosecutor, require one or more of them to give evidence as a witness or witnesses for the prosecution.
Those who refuse to answer lawful questions will be dealt with by the court.
Najib is accused of using his position to obtain immunity from legal action in relation to allegations that he tampered with the 1MDB audit report between Feb 22 and 26, 2016.
Arul is charged with abetting Najib.
If found guilty, they could be jailed for up to 20 years.
In its opening statement, prosecution said it will prove Najib allegedly tampered with a federal audit report on 1MDB to conceal his and Jho Low’s role in the misappropriation of funds.
Sri Ram said that the prosecution will produce evidence showing Najib had altered or caused to be removed portions of the 2016 1MDB auditor-general final report to conceal the true state of affairs in the state investment firm.
“One of the steps that Najib took to cover his tracks on the extent of his role and that of Jho Low in the business and affairs of 1MDB gives rise to the charge in this case.
“His objective was to conceal the truth. In due course, the auditor-general caused his report on 1MDB to be prepared.
“There were passages in that report that caused concern to Najib though they were true in fact. He became nonplussed if not agitated. He took positive steps to have those passages altered or removed,’’ said Sri Ram.
Sri Ram said the prosecution will also prove that Arul had abetted Najib in this.
“What happened was abnormal. Despite the fact that the report was ready to be placed before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, a meeting was convened on February 24, 2016 at Najib’s behest.
“It was chaired by the chief secretary. As a result of what transpired at that meeting, the relevant passages were amended or removed.
“The accused, Arul Kanda, by his conduct, preceding the meeting in question, at that meeting and following it, abetted the accused in this transaction,’’ he said.
Sri Ram said money belonging to 1MDB had flowed into the account of Good Star Ltd, controlled by Jho Low whom he described as Najib’s “mirror image”.
He said Najib had also received large amounts of money belonging to 1MDB while some went to his stepson Riza Aziz.
“Although he knew that the money in question belonged to 1MDB, he lied to the world at large that it was a donation from Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Earlier, the High Court rejected Najib’s application to postpone the trial.