The Kuala Lumpur High Court has allowed the prosecution to amend the abuse of power charge faced by Najib Razak in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd audit report tampering trial.
Presiding judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan made the ruling after two hours of submissions by lawyers this morning.
He said the amendments would not be prejudicial to Najib’s defence.
The judge gave an assurance that the defence would not be put at any disadvantage and would have the right to recall and cross-examine any of witnesses who have testified.
Najib’s altered charge now reads;
“That you between February 22, 2016, and February 26, 2016, at the Prime Minister’s Department, the administrative centre of the federal government, within the Federal Territory of Putrajaya, as a civil servant, that is the Prime Minister of Malaysia and Finance Minister of Malaysia had used your position to receive self-gratification, as protection from civil or criminal action concerning your role in the handling of operations of the company 1MDB, by the action of instructing that the 1MDB Auditor’s Report that was finalised by the Auditor-General (A-G) be amended as contained within Annexe A before the report was finalised again and presented to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC),” reads the new charge, with the amended words indicated in bold.
Identical changes were applied to Arul Kanda’s charge sheet as well.
Following Zaini’s judgment, the new charges were then read out again to both Najib and Arul Kanda, where they acknowledged to the court that they understood the amendments which were made.
Najib, 67, and Arul Kanda, 43, however, pleaded not guilty to the amended charges.
Earlier during submissions, deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib argued that the proposed amendments do not change the character of the charge, but it was “merely to clarify” them.
Amendments of charges were also permitted by law, he added.
Akram further argued that the defence has not completed cross-examining four crucial witnesses – former chief secretary to the government Ali Hamsa, National Audit Department (NAD) director Nor Salwani Muhammad, former auditor-general Ambrin Buang and former NAD audit director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad. Seven witnesses have testified in the trial’s 10 days of proceedings.
“Our lordship is not deciding whether the accused is guilty or innocent at this stage,” said lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram, who added that the changes were consistent with the principles of law and was not prejudicial to Najib.
Zaini fixed July 23 to hear Najib’s application to strike out his charge. The court will also hear Najib’s application to recuse prosecutor Sri Ram on August 7.
Najib’s charge is framed under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act, which carries a maximum prison term of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000 upon conviction.
Section 23 of the MACC Act forbids any public official who uses his post for offers for himself, his family or those around him.
Najib was represented by Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, while N Sivananthan acted for Arul Kanda.
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