Arul Kanda also acquitted.
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is grateful that the High Court acquitted him today for a power abuse charge over the removal of key information from the auditor-general’s 2016 report on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), his lawyer said today.
Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah shared his client’s response to the High Court’s decision today, as his client is currently a prisoner and cannot give press conferences.
“He is grateful to Allah for this decision today because it really uplifts his spirit and the desire to fight his cases,” Shafee told the media when met at the lobby of the Kuala Lumpur court complex.
Listing the many criminal cases that Najib has, Shafee remarked the High Court’s decision today is the first where his client has obtained a good outcome.
“In this case, this is the first case out of all those politically-charged cases that we got a very good result.
“I’m hoping the Attorney General’s Chambers will not appeal on this because the finding of the judge is completely supportable and has corroborated his findings. We hope this is the beginning of many good things that should come,” he said.
In this trial, Najib is accused of having abused his position as prime minister and finance minister between February 22 and February 26, 2016, by allegedly instructing for amendments to the 1MDB audit report — which was already ready to be presented to the PAC — before it was finally presented to the PAC.
Najib is accused of having done so to protect himself from civil or criminal action over his role in the handling of 1MDB operations.
In his decision, Justice Mohamed Zaini said the court found no causal link between the amendments Najib had ordered in the report and the gratification alleged.
“There is no evidence to suggest or prove that the second accused (Najib) had explicitly directed the amendments made to exonerate him from any civil or criminal liability.
“He was merely concerned that the report could be spun politically.
“The prosecution has not established how the items removed or amended could give rise to civil or criminal liability to the second accused,” he said.
Justice Mohamed Zaini opined that the items taken out or amended from the earlier audit report would not expose or give rise to any civil or criminal liability to Najib.
“The amendments, as stated by the (then) auditor general, were justified,” he added.
The court also observed that the items amended or taken out from the audit report were “known to and openly discussed” by the Public Accounts Committee.
He then gave the order of a discharge and acquittal for Najib.
Najib gave a wide smile as he hugged his supporters after the proceedings ended.
His wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and daughter Nooryana Najwa who also attended the proceedings could not hide their emotions and hugged each one another in the public gallery.
In this trial, former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy was accused of having abetted Najib, but he had also testified as the 15th prosecution witness.
In addressing Arul’s case earlier, the court found him to have made a “true and full discovery” in his testimony as a witness.
“The first accused (Arul) was consistent throughout his testimony.
“It was evident that he had answered the questions posed honestly and to the best of his ability.
“His testimonies were also compatible with the evidence produced and the testimonies of other witnesses,” Justice Mohamed Zaini said.
The judge said he was mindful that Arul might attempt to minimise his part and amplify any wrongdoings of Najib but found that Arul did not.
“The first accused did not attempt to camouflage the shenanigans surrounding 1MDB.
“It is general knowledge that he had been publicly vilified for the 1MDB affairs, perhaps unfairly, as many of the problems caused were before his time.
“There was no evidence in this trial to suggest that he was complicit or responsible for the problems afflicting 1MDB nor were there any suggestions made by the prosecution,” Justice Mohamed Zaini said.
The court then ordered for a certificate of indemnity under the seal of court to be issued to Arul, who was examined as a witness under Section 63(3) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009.
The certificate would bar all legal proceedings to be pursued against Arul in respect of the matters arising from the charges in the 1MDB audit tampering trial.
Arul expressed relief at being acquitted.
While Najib has been acquitted today, he is still facing other criminal cases including the ongoing trial over the misappropriation of RM2.28 billion of 1MDB’s funds, as well as two cases that have yet to begin trial – a money-laundering case involving SRC International Sdn Bhd’s RM27 million and his joint trial with former Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah involving six criminal breach of trust charges over RM6.6 billion of government funds.
Najib is also still challenging his conviction and 12-year jail sentence and RM210 million fine over the misappropriation of RM42 million of SRC’s funds.
Najib, 70, is now serving his 12-year jail sentence at the Kajang Prison after he was found guilty of all seven charges related to the misappropriation of RM42 million of SRC International funds.
When met by reporters at the lobby of the court complex, Rosmah said her husband feels grateful.
“Today’s decision is a victory for my husband, for our family, thank you very much,” she said, and later said “Insya-Allah (God willing), better things to come”.
When met after the High Court’s decision today, deputy public prosecutor Kamal Baharin Omar confirmed to reporters that the prosecution will study the grounds of judgment and will refer this matter to the attorney-general to decide on whether an appeal would be filed.
The prosecution will have 14 days to file an appeal to the Court of Appeal, if it does decide to file one.