Prosecution bids for Arul Kanda to testify against Najib in 1MDB audit tampering trial

Former 1MDB CEO, Arul Kanda Kandasamy, is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex November 18, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Former 1MDB CEO, Arul Kanda Kandasamy, is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex November 18, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — The prosecution will call former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy as a witness against Datuk Seri Najib Razak in their joint corruption trial.

Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram today notified the High Court of this today.

“I am duty bound to inform the court that at the appropriate stage, the public prosecutor will apply in writing under Section 63 of the MACC Act to call the accused Arul Kanda to give evidence on the prosecution’s behalf,” Sri Ram said in his opening statement at the start of the joint trial of Najib and Arul Kanda.

“We will be addressing the court on this part of the case at the appropriate stage,” he added.

Under Section 63 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, in a situation where two or more people are charged with an offence under the law, the court may require one or more of them to give evidence as witnesses for the prosecution if a written application is made by the public prosecutor.

Both Najib and Arul Kanda were charged under the MACC Act over the alleged tampering of the auditor-general’s final report on 1MDB in 2016.

Today, Sri Ram also said Najib had allegedly taken “positive steps” to alter or remove passages that were factually true in the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB.

Sri Ram described the “abnormal” events where Najib had allegedly instructed for a meeting on February 24, 2016 that was chaired by the chief secretary to the government, which allegedly resulted in certain passages being amended or removed from the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB despite the report being ready to be presented to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

“The accused Arul Kanda by his conduct, preceding the meeting in question, at that meeting and following it, abetted the accused in this transaction,” Sri Ram had said, before then alerting of the prosecution’s intention to call Arul Kanda to testify against Najib later on during the trial.

Arul Kanda’s lawyer Datuk N. Sivananthan then said it “comes somewhat as a surprise” that the prosecution intends to call his client as a witness, and will address this when the application under Section 63 of the MACC Act is made.

“He obviously can’t give evidence against himself. We note the prosecution’s intention which has now come to our notice,” he said.

Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah also said he would reserve the right to raise the necessary submission and objections when the matter comes up, adding that he believed that there might be elements of constitutional law involved.

In this trial, Najib was charged with abusing his position as prime minister to order amendments in February 2016 to the auditor-general’s final audit report on 1MDB before its presentation to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to avoid any action against him, while Arul Kanda was charged with abetting Najib in the report’s tampering.

Both their offences are punishable under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 with a maximum 20-year jail term, and a fine of at least five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000 or whichever is higher.

Sri Ram today also said that the prosecution will show that Najib knew that he would be exposed to civil or criminal action — in his three positions as 1MDB’s “shadow director”, prime minister and finance minister — if the truth about 1MDB emerged.

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