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High Court to decide next week if Najib's 1MDB audit report tampering trial starts in January

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 7): High Court judge Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan would decide on next Wednesday (Nov 13) on whether the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report tampering trial involving former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak (pictured) and the fund’s former chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy could begin on Jan 13.

This followed a request from the prosecution, led by former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, for Justice Zaini's court to vacate the Nov 18-29 dates and possibly the January dates in order to finish the 1MDB-Tanore trial that also involves Najib, which is deemed as a priority.

“I have to apologise in being the bearer of bad news in making this application. Furthermore, in the [1MDB-Tanore] case, the first chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Ibrahim Halmi is being cross-examined by Najib's defence team.

“As Shahrol is one of the vital witnesses in the audit tampering case, his testimony, if the audit report tampering case would start, may prejudice the present 1MDB case. As such, we apply for the November trial dates to be vacated,” Sri Ram said.

He added that on Monday (Nov 11), High Court judge Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali would decide on whether Najib would enter his defence with regards to SRC International Sdn Bhd case.

“Should defence be called for the SRC case, dates on Dec 3 to 19 had already been fixed for that case. Hence, we fear the December dates are already taken up,” the former top judge said.

Sri Ram, who has been appointed as senior deputy public prosecutor (DPP) by Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, further said the prosecution is also requesting for the January trial dates that had been fixed for the audit report tampering case to be given to the 1MDB case.

Justice Zaini asked how long does the defence have to cross-examine Shahrol, as his court is restrained from adjourning the trial and fixing new trial dates.

Najib's lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said he may have to spend another two weeks to finish cross-examining Shahrol.

Sri Ram then suggested dates in May and explained that Shahrol is one of three key witnesses to testify in the audit tampering case.

His testimony is based  on the original document and the tampered document allegedly used as a means of gratification, which is the subject matter of the charge against the former premier.

“We are concerned that as Shahrol has yet to conclude his cross-examination and re-examination, his testimony if the audit report starts would be prejudicial to the 1MDB case. In addition, the defence indicated the need two more weeks to finish their cross-examination,” said the former Federal Court judge.

Justice Zaini then fixed Wednesday to deliver his decision, given that Shahrol may finish testifying before the January dates fixed for the 1MDB audit-tampering case.

Najib is accused of tampering the final 1MDB audit report in order to gain protection from a civil disciplinary action before the report was presented and finalised and presented to the Public Accounts Committee.

He allegedly committed the offence at the Prime Minister’s Office, Putrajaya between Feb 22 and Feb 26, 2016.

The charge under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 carries a maximum 20 years imprisonment and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

Meanwhile, Arul Kanda is charged with abetting Najib.

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