by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by TMR GRAPHIC
A FORMER prime minister and his deputy were tried at the Kuala Lumpur (KL) High Courts yesterday, the first time in the country’s history that top leaders were charged on the same day, but for different criminal offences at the KL Courts Complex.
Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak was accused of using his position to tamper with an official document to protect himself at the High Court 2, together with former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy. In the High Court 1, Najib’s former No 2, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi faced 47 charges involving the Yayasan Akalbudi fund.
Both Najib and Ahmad Zahid pleaded not guilty to the charges and vowed to prove their innocence.
This is Najib’s third trial after the SRC International Sdn Bhd and 1MDB trials.
It is the first for Ahmad Zahid since they were removed from the government last year.
Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan dismissed the application made by Najib’s defence to adjourn the trial following amendments made to the charges.
Similarly, Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah rejected Ahmad Zahid’s application to challenge the constitutionality of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 and the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001, and ordered the trial to begin.
In the 1MDB final audit tampering trial, appointed lead public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram said Najib had covered his tracks to conceal the truth of 1MDB after the scandal broke in early July 2015.
Sri Ram said Najib took positive steps to alter or remove passages in the report despite it being ready to be placed before the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament.
He said a meeting was convened on Feb 24, 2016, at Najib’s behest and chaired by the chief secretary.
“There were passages in that report that caused concern to Najib though they were true in fact. He becomes nonplussed, if not agitated,” the prosecutor said yesterday when he opened the trial.
“Najib knew, or it was certainly within his contemplation, that if the truth emerged, he would be exposed to civil or criminal liability for the reasons already stated,” Sri Ram added.
Meanwhile, Sri Ram said Arul Kanda by his conduct, presiding the meeting in question, at that meeting and following it, abetted the accused in the transaction.
He also said the prosecution will apply in writing to call Arul Kanda to give evidence on the prosecution’s behalf.
Three witnesses testified yesterday including a secretary at the Parliament and Constitution Affairs division of the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD) Daman Huri Nor; an accountant at PMD’s financial division Natasha Rahimah Haryati Mohamad; and Muhamad Akmaludin Abdullah, an assistant registrar at the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM).
Separately, in Ahmad Zahid’s trial, deputy public prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran said not a single sen out of the RM31 million funds belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi was used for the benefit of the poor.
“Instead, the money trail will show that a substantial amount had been used, among others, to pay for personal credit card bills, and to make purchases for motor-vehicle insurance policies and road tax for private-owned vehicles,” Raja Rozela said in her opening statement.
Ahmad Zahid is facing 47 criminal charges including 12 counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT), eight for corruption and 27 for money laundering involving RM31 million funds of Yayasan Akalbudi, chaired by the accused.
Raja Rozela said at least 20 witnesses will be called to prove the CBT charges.
On the corruption charges, she said the accused, as a public body officer being the then-home affairs minister, had allegedly received RM17 million as a reward for the award of three distinct contracts to several companies.
The prosecutor said the money laundering charges will be proven by showing the accused had allegedly received approximately RM65 million worth of cheques from individuals known or unknown to him.
The prosecution’s first witness Pinny Asnan, an executive at SSM, testified that Yayasan Akalbudi shall act like a foundation, which it can receive contributions but cannot “payback” to any parties as a no return policy is applied.