KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — On Friday(3 March), the High Court cleared former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) president Arul Kanda Kandasamy of charges relating to the tampering of the 1MDB audit report.
The presiding judge, Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, ruled that the prosecution had failed to establish a prima facie case against Najib, leading to his acquittal and discharge.
The judge also acquitted and discharged Arul Kanda after finding that he had made a “true and full discovery” during his examination.
Najib had been charged with abusing his power as a public officer and altering the 1MDB audit report prepared by the National Audit Department in order to avoid action by Parliament and protect himself from civil or criminal action over his role in the handling of 1MDB operations.
He stands accused of abusing his position as both prime minister and finance minister by allegedly directing the alteration of the 1MDB audit report between 22 February and 26 February, 2016.
The charge against Najib was framed under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of RM10,000 or five times the amount of gratification.
Arul Kandar who was charged with abetting Najib, was represented by Datuk N Sivananthan and Jasmine Chong.
The trial began on 18 November 2019 and featured testimony from 16 prominent prosecution witnesses, including former Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa and former auditors-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang and Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad.
The prosecution is led by deputy public prosecutors Kamal Bahrin Omar, Ahmad Akram Gharib, Mohamad Mustafa P Kunyalam, and Deepa Nair, while Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Mohd Farhan Shafee, and Alistar Brendan represented Najib.
DPP Kamarul Bahrin said the prosecution would review the decision and seek advice from the Attorney General, who is also the Public Prosecutor in the case.
Lead defence counsel says the court’s decision has “lifted Najib’s spirits and desire” to fight
Najib’s lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah expressed hope that the acquittal of Najib in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report tampering trial will mark the “beginning of many good things to come.”
Shafee also expressed the desire that the Attorney General’s Chambers will not appeal the decision.
Shafee mentioned that Najib, who is currently in prison, has conveyed that the court’s decision on March 3 has “lifted his spirits and desire” to fight.
Najib currently serving a 12-year jail term for SRC case
Najib is currently serving a 12-year jail term and has been fined RM210 million after being found guilty of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust, and money laundering in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case.
The verdict on former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s request to review his conviction and sentence in the SRC case has been reserved by the Federal Court.
This comes after he exhausted his legal options to appeal last year. The five-member panel, chaired by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli, has requested time to deliberate on the matter. The court has informed the parties involved that the decision will be delivered no later than 31 March.