Najib loses bid to strike out tampering charge

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is accused of using his position to order an amendment to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report, has failed in his bid to quash the charge against him.

High Court judge Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan ruled that the Pekan MP’s application did not meet the high threshold required to set aside or quash the charge.

Such application, the judge said, should only be allowed in the rarest of circumstances where there was a miscarriage of justice.

“The grounds submitted by the applicant, as convincing as he thinks they are, should only be considered at the end of the prosecution’s case for it would be premature for the court at this stage to consider them without availing itself of all the evidence that the prosecution will submit. The application is therefore dismissed, ” he said here yesterday.

Najib, 67, had applied to be acquitted and discharged from the charge of tampering with the 1MDB audit report, citing the charge was groundless, oppressive and misleading as the words used in the charge were confusing.

The alleged offence as stated in the charge had mentioned that the report was “finalised” and subsequently “finalised again” as directed by Najib.

Najib contended that the audit report could not possibly be subject to further changes as a report that has been “finalised” could not be “finalised again”.

The judge said this contention was the crux of the prosecution’s case and there was a need for the court to ascertain whether the report was indeed finalised and if so, whether it was amended.

“I am therefore of the view that the charge is not misleading, ” he said.

At present, seven witnesses have taken the stand to give evidence-in-chief.

Justice Zaini said it would be hazardous for the court to speculate on the outcome of the prosecution’s case at this stage as it had not been completed.

“It is incumbent for the trial judge to subject all the evidence proffered by the prosecution on a maximum evaluation basis at the end of the prosecution’s case and not on a piecemeal basis, ” he added.

Najib is on trial for allegedly using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report that had already been “finalised” by the Auditor-General, before it was “finalised again” and presented before the Public Accounts Committee to avoid any action being taken against him.

The offence was allegedly committed at the Prime Minister’s Department Complex, Federal Government’s Administrative Centre, the Federal Territory of Putrajaya, between Feb 22 and 26,2016.The charge under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 provides a 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.

Lawyer Syahirah Hanapiah represented Najib while deputy public prosecutors Nadia Zulkefli and Hazmida Harris Lee appeared for the prosecution.

The trial is set to resume on Aug 24.

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