Prosecution, Arul Kanda object to Najib's bid to postpone 1MDB audit tampering trial

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 15): The prosecution, and former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) chief executive officer and president Arul Kanda Kandasamy, who is also the a co-accused in the audit tampering case, today objected to Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak's application to postpone the trial, which is scheduled to begin on Monday (Nov 18).

The prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ahmad Akram Gharib, also brought to High Court Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan's attention that Najib had also planned to seek a postponement of the SRC International Sdn Bhd trial, which has been fixed for the former premier's defence to be called on Dec 3.

"It seemed [Najib's] defence is pre-planning to postpone the defence in the [SRC trial]. I am suggesting as affirmed in paragraph 20 [Najib] is not telling the whole truth," he said.

"His application to possibly seek an adjournment to the SRC case does not gel with the application made here," the DPP added.

Furthermore, Akram said it would not be proper to grant the adjournment until January as this would put the judiciary in a bad light, as this court decided on Wednesday to proceed with the audit tampering trial on Monday.

Arul Kanda's lawyer Datuk N Sivanathan objected to the postponement itself, as the court has to take into consideration that his client is the co-accused and he has his own right.

"We have been accommodating and were looking forward for this trial to start next week and not only begin in January next year.

"If we postpone to January what guarantee is there that there would not be another application to postpone the trial," he said.

Furthermore, Sivananthan said he agreed with the prosecution that when the case was called for case management several weeks back, lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah did not indicate wanting a deferment then despite knowing decision for the SRC case was on Nov 11 and the possibility of defence being called on Dec 3.

This, he said, was despite the prosecution then bringing to the court's attention its problem with former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, whose cross-examination has yet to be finished in the 1MDB-Tanore trial.

Najib's lawyer Harvinderjit Singh said the defence needed time to prepare the former premier's defence and should the trial start on Monday (Nov 18), it would only leave six days for the lawyers and this could prejudice him.

He explained that the purpose his client put it on affidavit is to seek a postponement of Najib's defence should Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali allow the defence's application to ask for witness statements of others interviewed by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission who are different from those offered by the prosecution.

"Should the court allow that, then we would seek an adjournment there (in Justice Nazlan's court) to allow us time to interview the potential witnesses," he explained.

Harvinderjit said if the postponement is allowed here (in Justice Zaini's) court, the defence will undertake to withdraw the postponement application at the other court.

"The court has to take into consideration that it is unprecedented that the accused is facing several trials," he said.

Justice Zaini says he will deliver his decision on Monday and asked parties to prepare for the eventuality that the court orders the trial to proceed.

"I will try and be as fair as I can," he assured, adding that the court also questioned the tone as he remembered vividly, as highlighted by the prosecution and Sivananthan, that Shafee then did not mind if the matter were to proceed.

Akram also informed the court today that should the trial proceed on Monday, it would present an amendment to the present charge, and he gave the copy of the charge to Sivananthan and Harvinderjit.

It was reported that Najib's lawyers had filed an application to postpone Monday's trial owing to them needing time to prepare the SRC case.

Najib 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. Arul Kanda is charged with abetting Najib in the offence.

It is understood the amendments to the charge involve providing further details of what had been removed in the audit report.

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