1MDB audit tampering trial: Najib, Arul Kanda freed from charges

  • Nation
  • Friday, 03 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here has acquitted and discharged both former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy in the 1MDB audit tampering trial on Friday (March 3).

Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, who is now a Court of Appeal judge, said that the court has given its maximum evaluation at the end of the prosecution's case.

In Najib's case, the judge said the prosecution has failed to prove prima facie against the accused.

Najib is accused of abusing his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report to avoid any action being taken against him.

ALSO READ: Najib tried to prevent PAC from getting draft of 1MDB audit report, court hears

In his decision, Justice Mohamed Zaini said the court found no causal link between the amendments Najib had ordered in the report and the gratification alleged.

"There is no evidence to suggest or prove that the second accused (Najib) had explicitly directed the amendments made to exonerate him from any civil or criminal liability.

"He was merely concerned that the report could be spun politically.

"The prosecution has not established how the items removed or amended could give rise to civil or criminal liability to the second accused," he said.

Justice Mohamed Zaini opined that the items taken out or amended from the earlier audit report would not expose or give rise to any civil or criminal liability to Najib.

"The amendments, as stated by the (then) auditor general, were justified," he added.

The court also observed that the items amended or taken out from the audit report were "known to and openly discussed" by the Public Accounts Committee.

He then gave the order of a discharge and acquittal for Najib.

ALSO READ: Prosecution closes Najib, Arul Kanda 1MDB audit tampering case

In addressing Arul Kanda's case earlier, the court found Arul, who is accused of abetting Najib in the offence, have made a "true and full discovery" in his testimony as a witness.

Arul, who is a co-accused, became a prosecution witness in the middle of the prosecution's trial and testified against Najib.

"The first accused (Arul) was consistent throughout his testimony.

"It was evident that he had answered the questions posed honestly and to the best of his ability.

"His testimonies were also compatible with the evidence produced and the testimonies of other witnesses," Justice Mohamed Zaini said.

The judge said he was mindful that Arul might attempt to minimise his part and amplify any wrongdoings of Najib but found that Arul did not.

"The first accused (Arul) did not attempt to camouflage the shenanigans surrounding 1MDB.

"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.

"There was no evidence in this trial to suggest that he was complicit or responsible for the problems afflicting 1MDB nor were there any suggestions made by the prosecution," Justice Mohamed Zaini said.

The court then ordered for a certificate of indemnity under the seal of court to be issued to Arul Kanda, who was examined as a witness under Section 63(3) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009.

The certificate would bar all legal proceedings to be pursued against Arul Kanda in respect of the matters arising from the charges in the 1MDB audit tampering trial.

This is Najib's third criminal case which is currently being heard in the courts.

His first conviction and sentence came from the RM42mil SRC International Sdn Bhd case, which is currently at the leave application stage for a review at the Federal Court while the RM2.28bil 1MDB case is being heard at another High Court.

The prosecution in the 1MDB audit report tampering trial closed its case on Sept 7, last year, after calling 16 witnesses.

Witnesses included the late Tan Sri Ali Hamsa who was the former chief secretary to the government, former auditors-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang and Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad, former 1MDB chairman Tan Sri Bakke Salleh, and former National Audit Department audit director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad.

Najib, 70, 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 him in making the amendments to the report.

The offence was allegedly committed at the Prime Minister's Department Complex at the Federal Government Administrative Centre in Putrajaya between Feb 22 and 26, 2016.

Both men were charged under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, which 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.

More to come

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