Najib’s 3rd trial to begin today

by BERNAMA/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE third trial of criminal charges faced by former Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak (picture; centre) at the Kuala Lumpur High Court commences today.

He is facing a charge of tampering the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) final audit report together with 1MDB former CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy.

Najib, 66, is currently preparing to enter his defence in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case, in which he faces seven charges of misappropriating RM42 million in SRC funds at another High Court. His defence will resume on Dec 3.

He 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.

Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan will first deliver his decision on Najib’s application for the audit report tampering trial to be moved to Jan 13, 2020.

Prior to this, Mohamed Zaini directed all parties to be prepared with the trial if he disallowed the application. The judge 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 said the prosecution is ready with three to five formal witnesses. The prosecution team is led by former Federal Court Judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, while Najib’s team is led by Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah Wan Mohammed and Arul Kanda’s by Datuk N Sivananthan.

In his application filed on Nov 13, Najib said if the 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 while preparing for another ongoing 1MDB case which began on Aug 28.

The application, however, was objected by Arul Kanda who urged the court to look at the interest of all the accused persons, not just one, and asked the court to proceed with the trial as he wanted to be given an opportunity to vindicate himself.

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 to avoid any action against him.

Najib was accused of committing the offence at the PM’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 the amendments 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.