No proof that Najib directed amendment of 1MDB audit report – Judge

KUALA LUMPUR – The High Court here today ruled that there was no evidence that Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (picture) had explicitly directed the amendment made to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) final audit report, to exonerate himself from any civil or criminal liability.

Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan in his judgment said the former premier was merely concerned that the audit report could be spun politically and the amendment to the audit report was based on the former Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang’s judgment and agreement and based on documents from the first accused (former chief executive officer of 1MDB Arul Kanda Kandasamy).

“This would not have been necessary if 1MDB’s management had been more cooperative before the publication of the earlier audit report. There was no evidence to show that Ambrin was forced to attend the meetings or make changes to the audit report.

“As for the gratification that was alleged to have sought, I agree that there was no causal link between the amendment made and the gratification alleged,” said the judge.

He further said the prosecution had not established how the items removed or amended could give rise to civil or criminal liability to Najib.

The judge, in acquitting Najib from the charge of using his position to order the amendment to the 1MDB final audit report before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee to avoid any legal action being taken against him, said he was of the opinion that the items taken out from the earlier audit report will not give rise to any civil or criminal liability to the former prime minister.

“The amendment as stated by Ambrin was justified. The amendment was also known to the Public Accounts Committee and openly discussed,” said Justice Mohamed Zaini.

Therefore, he said, the presumption under Section 23(2) of the Malaysian-Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 cannot apply as the prosecution could not prove gratification.

Najib, 70, who is currently serving a 12-year jail sentence in Kajang prison for misappropriating SRC International Sdn Bhd’s funds was charged under Section 23 (1) of the MACC Act.

Justice Mohamed Zaini said even Ambrin confirmed that there were no specific instructions from Najib to amend or remove anything from the audit report.

“There was no evidence Ambrin was forced to attend the meetings or make changes to the audit report,” he said.

He said that Najib was entitled to receive a copy of the audit report as he was the Finance Minister and a stakeholder for 1MDB.

This was also admitted by Ambrin and one of the prosecution witnesses as the norm, he said.

On the two financial statements of 1MDB, the judge said it would seem that Najib had no knowledge of this until it was brought to his attention by Ambrin.

The judge further said Ambrin, who carried out the audit of 1MDB was granted independence to carry out his duties due to the security of tenure under Article 105 of the Federal Constitution and thus, Ambrin was conferred wide powers under the Audit Act 1957.

“Ambrin is, therefore, given the independence to carry out his duties without fear and favour. There are consequently very few reasons, if any, for the Auditor-General to be cowed, coerced, or forced to make any decisions contrary to his belief or duties.

“He strikes me as determined to carry out his duties diligently and does not suffer fools gladly. He would answer any questions posed to the point and did not mince his words when required. He is the epitome of professionalism,” he said.

Meanwhile, on Arul Kanda, Justice Mohamed Zaini pointed out that Arul Kanda did not attempt to camouflage the shenanigans surrounding 1MDB.

“He was roped in to rescue the company and had left what was presumably a promising career abroad. 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,” he said.

The judge, in acquitting Arul Kanda from the charge of abetting Najib, said there was no evidence in this trial to say that he (Arul Kanda) was complicit or responsible for problems afflicting the 1MDB.

“I find that Arul Kanda had made a true and full discovery of all things as to which he was lawfully examined and order that a certificate of indemnity under the seal of the court be issued to him stating that he had made a true and full discovery of all things as to which was examined under the provisions of Section 63(3) of the MACC Act.

“This certificate shall be a bar to all legal proceedings against him in respect of the matters arising from the charges in this case. Arul Kanda is discharged and acquitted from the charge against him,” said the judge.

For the second accused (Najib), he also found the prosecution has failed to adduce credible evidence to prove the offence which if unrebutted or unexplained would warrant a conviction.

“The second accused is therefore discharged and acquitted from the charge against him,” he said. – Bernama