KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is planning to seek for a release from the charge of tampering with the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) final audit report that he is facing with 1MDB former chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
Lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told presiding High Court Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan that the defence plans to apply for Najib to be discharged on the basis that the current charge against him is groundless.
He said the proposed amendment to the charge made by the prosecution had led to serious implication to the defence case.
“Yesterday I put a series of questions to (fourth) prosecution witness (former Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa). We will contemplate either by today or next hearing an application that the charge is groundless and therefore for Yang Arif to discharge my client.
“(This is because) if the amendment (to the 1MDB audit report) be done before it is finalised as in the original charge, then there is no offence. Now with this amendment (proposed by the prosecution) it changed the position quite drastically.
“I would therefore confer this with my client and take full instruction from him. Yang Arif must decide on this issue before we proceed with trial otherwise it would be unfair to my client,” he said when objecting to the proposed amendment.
Najib, 67, is charged with using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report before it was finalised and presented before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to avoid any action being taken against him, while Arul Kanda is charged with abetting Najib in making amendments to the report to protect Najib from being subjected to action.
Both were charged under provisions of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, which carry a maximum jail term of 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.
Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib had earlier told the court that the prosecution intends to propose two amended charges against Najib and Arul Kanda and asked for the proposed amended charges to be marked and read to them.
However, the proposed amended charges were not read to both accused.
Muhammad Shafee further said that the difference in the proposed amendment by the prosecution is the phrase “dengan cara mengambil tindakan mengarahkan laporan pengauditan 1MDB yang telah dimuktamadkan”.
“Previously, the words ‘yang sedang disediakan’ (being prepared), now (the proposed amendment) is the words ‘yang telah dimuktamadkan’ (which has been finalised); there’s a lot of difference,” he said.
Former Federal Court judge leading the prosecution team, Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, said that the defence should focus on what the offence is.
He said based on the evidence from former Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, National Audit Department (NAD) officer Datuk Nor Salwani Muhammad and NAD former director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad, the prosecution case has always been pure logic.
“We are not springing anything new on the defence. So as far as we are concerned, there is no substantial issue to the charge,” he said.
Justice Mohamed Zaini then said that he would be more than happy to give time to both parties to prepare their submissions over the matter and fixed June 24 to hear submissions.
He also vacated the trial dates for today and tomorrow fixed further dates for the hearing, from Oct 12 to 16 and Dec 7 to 10.