Najib, Arul’s acquittals stand after prosecution delay

What a relief: Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor reacting as she leaves the Court of Appeal. The court’s decision sees both Najib and Arul Kanda remaining free of the charges of tampering with the ­Auditor-General’s audit report on 1MDB. — Bernama

PUTRAJAYA: Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and 1MDB’s former CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy will remain free of charges of tampering with the Auditor-General’s audit report on 1MDB.

Yesterday, their acquittal was retained as the prosecution failed to meet deadlines to continue their appeal.

The Court of Appeal said the decision to strike out the appeal was made since the prosecution did not file the required papers within the deadline to continue the trial and also due to its failure to file an application to extend the deadline, which was on July 6 this year.

As such, both Najib and Arul Kanda will remain free of the charges of tampering with the Auditor-General’s audit report on 1MDB.

A three-member Court of Appeal bench chaired by Justice Hadhariah Syed Ismail made the unanimous decision. The other judges were Justices Ahmad Zaidi Ibrahim and Azmi Ariffin.

Justice Hadhariah said the prosecution team had had ample time to seek an extension of time to file the petition of appeal on at least three occasions, but failed to do so up until yesterday.

“Based on the chronology of the case, there were three case managements conducted on July 31, Aug 28 and Aug 30.

“At all three times, the prosecution was instructed to file the petition but failed to follow the court’s order.

“According to the law, if the petition fails to be filed within the stipulated time and there is no request filed to extend the time, then the appeal is considered as lapsed (terluput) and withdrawn (terbatal).

“Until today, on the 12th of September, which is already over two months late, there is no petition filed and so we have made the decision to strike out this case. We follow the law, okay?” she said at the appellate court here yesterday.

Earlier, Najib’s counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah pointed out that according to Section 53(3) of the Courts of Judicature Act, if a petition is not filed within the time prescribed, the appeal “shall be deemed withdrawn”.

Deputy public prosecutor Datuk Yusaini Amer Abdul Karim said the prosecution needed time to do a proper study as it was a case of public interest.

However, Justice Hadhariah pointed out that since the prosecution team realised that the case was of public interest, the team should have made more effort to expedite the filing of the petition of appeal.

Met by reporters after the court proceedings, Arul Kanda expressed delight over the verdict, adding that he and his family could finally move on from the 1MDB trial.

“I feel we have been vindicated. It is time for me and my family to move on,” he said when met at the Palace of Justice.

On March 3 this year, High Court judge Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan (now a Court of Appeal judge) freed Najib and Arul Kanda without calling them to enter their defence.

The judge ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove a prima facie case against them.

Following that, the prosecution filed the appeal against their acquittals on March 9 this year.

Najib, who is currently serving a 12-year jail sentence in Kajang prison for misappropriating SRC International Sdn Bhd funds, was charged with using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee to avoid any action being taken against him.

Arul Kanda was charged with abetting the former prime minister in making the amendments to the report to protect Najib from being subjected to action.

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

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