No change in Arul Kanda’s stand

Court hearing: Arul Kanda arriving at the courthouse in Kuala Lumpur. — Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: Former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy is standing by his statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), should he be called to testify in former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1MDB audit tampering trial.

Lawyer Datuk N. Sivananthan told the High Court that Arul Kanda was ready to testify on the stand.

Sivananthan was queried by Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan on his client’s stance to an application by the prosecution that sought to call Arul Kanda, who is a co- accused, to testify as a witness.

“My client has given his testimony to the MACC. His position has always been that he will stand by those statements.

“If that is what the prosecution is asking him to do, then he will do it,” Sivananthan said here yesterday.

Justice Mohamed Zaini then responded: “So in English, he says ‘yes’,” to the laughter of those present in court.

On May 20, the prosecution made a verbal application before Justice Mohamed Zaini to call Arul Kanda as a witness under Section 63 of the MACC Act 2009.

The section states that in a situation where two or more people are charged with an offence under the same law, the court may require one or more of them to give evidence as witnesses for the prosecution if a written application is made by the public prosecutor.

Earlier, the court heard submissions from lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram and Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah on the matter.

Muhammad Shafee said it was “oppressive” for the prosecution to have mentioned it in their opening statement at the beginning of the trial that Arul Kanda would be called to testify when he was a co-accused himself.

“They let Arul sit there and listen to all the witnesses. If he was a normal witness, he would be sitting in a witness room,” he said.

The lawyer also argued that the prosecution ought to have withdrawn the charge against Arul Kanda first before calling him to the stand.

By invoking Section 63 of the MACC Act, Muhammad Shafee said it was a “subtle threat” on Arul Kanda for him to “behave” as the charge was still hanging over the latter.

“The ultimate question is: are we giving a fair trial to Najib in this context?” he added.

Meanwhile, Sri Ram argued that by invoking Section 63, Arul Kanda’s evidence on the stand would require corroboration for his testimony to remain credible.

“Those are the safety valves that would ensure a fair trial,” he said.

Arul Kanda’s defence team had indicated in an earlier proceeding that it would not be making a submission regarding the issue and would leave it to the court’s discretion.

Justice Mohamed Zaini fixed June 24 to deliver his decision on the matter.

Najib, 69, is accused of abusing his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report to avoid any action being taken against him while Arul Kanda, 46, is accused of abetting Najib in making the amendments.

Both men are charged under Section 23(1) of the MACC Act, which provides for 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.

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