Prosecution amends three of Najib’s 1MDB abuse of power charges

Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives in Parliament Kuala Lumpur March 28, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives in Parliament Kuala Lumpur March 28, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s three power abuse charges related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal were amended today.

Malaysiakini reported that the three charges — all under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 — were re-read to Najib in front of Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah at the Kuala Lumpur High Court this afternoon.

The report, citing the charge sheet, stated that the prosecution appended the first and third charge to include the words “in which you have direct interest”.

The fourth charge, however, included new details on Najib’s alleged offence where he is accused of seeking RM49.9 million in gratification for himself between June 23 and December 19, 2014.

The charge alleged that the former prime minister had given approval to 1MDB to obtain a loan of up to US$975 million (RM3.976 billion) from Deustsche Bank AG through 1MDB Energy Holdings Limited, for the purpose of 1MDB Energy Group IPO, on August 21, 2014.

The amendments to the charge included Najib’s supposed means of committing the crime.

“On May 22, 2014, at 1MDB Office, Level 8, Menara IMC, No 8 Jalan Sultan Ismail, in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, you as the minister of finance did approve 1MDB through its wholly-owned subsidiary 1MDB Energy Holdings Limited to obtain a loan through an Initial Bridge Financing Facility up to US$300 million from Deutsche Bank AG for the purpose of 1MDB Energy Group IPO, in which you have a direct interest,” it read.

The amendments, however, did not sit well with Najib’s lawyer Harvinderjit Singh who argued that the alleged offence had taken place prior to the date stated in the original charge sheet, in which his client is accused of committing the crime between June 23 and December 19, 2014.

“I assume that the amendment to the fourth charge adds what appears to be a further act,” he said.

Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram then argued that the amendments only supplemented the charge with additional information.

“It doesn’t alter the nature of it (the offence),” he said.

After hearing submissions from both parties, Sequerah allowed for the amendments, Malaysiakini reported.

He then stated that the defence can deliberate the issue during the trial, which will be held from April 15 to May 3.

In September, Najib had claimed trial to four counts of power abuse allegedly committed during the period from February 24, 2011 to December 19, 2014, with the amount linked to these offences totalling RM2,282,937,678.41.

He is charged under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009. If found guilty, he faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of at least five times the sum involved.