Najib's lawyers file application to defer 1MDB audit tampering trial

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 14): Lawyers for Datuk Seri Najib Razak had yesterday filed a formal written application to the High Court to defer the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit tampering trial, which will begin next Monday (Nov 18), so they could prepare the former premier's defence for the SRC International Sdn Bhd trial, which will start on Dec 3.

The application was filed by Shafee & Co yesterday after Justice Mohamad Zaini Mazlan, who is presiding in the audit tampering trial, had yesterday fixed Nov 18 to 29 for the trial.

The matter was privately confirmed to by lawyers representing Najib and the prosecution.

"An application has been filed so that the court could consider for Najib's lawyers to prepare his defence in the SRC case," said sources on both sides on condition of anonymity.

If the audit tampering trial proceeds on Monday until Nov 29, lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and his legal team have only four days to prepare the former premier's defence.

It was reported yesterday that lawyers Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed and Muhammad Farhan Shafee had verbally asked Justice Zaini to consider vacating the trial dates for the audit tampering case.

Justice Zaini said the court, while sympathetic with the defence's predicament, had indicated that it would not be harsh should they require an adjournment at another time but he wanted the trial to proceed as scheduled and planned.

The prosecution, led by senior Deputy Public Prosecutor and former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, had last week and yesterday indicated the prosecution's predicament as former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi has yet to complete his cross-examination and re-examination in the 1MDB-Tanore trial.

Sri Ram had said the prosecution intended to have Shahrol as its first prosecution witness in the audit tampering trial and feared that his testimony in this trial may prejudice the ongoing 1MDB trial.

Despite this, Justice Zaini instructed the prosecution to call other witnesses, and not Shahrol, as the judge wanted the case, which had been fixed for two weeks, to proceed.

The former premier had claimed trial to tampering with the final 1MDB audit report in order to gain protection from a civil disciplinary action before the report was finalised and presented to the Public Accounts Committee.

He allegedly committed the offence at the Prime Minister's Office in 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 of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

1MDB former president and CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy has been charged with abetting Najib in the tampering of the 1MDB audit report.

Following this development, Justice Zaini will tomorrow morning listen to the application filed by the defence, to decide whether the trial will proceed next Monday.

It was reported on Monday (Nov 11) at another High Court that the former premier has been ordered by Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali to enter his defence for all seven SRC charges.

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