By Aathi Shankar
Former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy would challenge the prosecution’s plan to turn him as a witness against former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Ad-hoc lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram notified High Court judge Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan that he would make an application at the appropriate stage of the trial to call Arul Kanda as a prosecution witness.
“We will be addressing the court on this part of the case at the appropriate stage,” he said at the 1st day of Najib-Arul Kanda joint trial in Kuala Lumpur High Court today, Monday, November 18, 2019.
Arul Kanda’s defence team was however taken by surprise with Gopal Sri Ram’s statement.
His lawyer Datuk N. Sivananthan said the prosecution imminent application will be addressed accordingly when it was filed.
“He obviously can’t give evidence against himself. We note the prosecution’s intention which has now come to our notice,” he told the judge, indicating that his client would object against it.
The prosecution will apply in writing under Section 63 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009.
Under Section 63, 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.
Najib’s defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said he would reserve the right to raise the necessary submission and objections when the matter comes up, pointing out that elements of constitutional law would be involved in it.
On Dec 12, 2018, Najib was charged for allegedly tampering the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) final audit report together with Arul Kanda.
Najib, 66, is being accused of using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report before it was tabled to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to avoid any action against him.
He was charged, in his capacity as a public officer, which was as the Prime Minister, with using the position to obtain gratification for himself, which was to evade disciplinary, civil or criminal action against him in connection with 1MDB, by ordering alterations to the 1MDB final audit report before it was finalised and tabled to the PAC, where he directly had interest in.
The Pekan MP was accused of committing the offence at the Prime Minister’s Department Complex, Federal Government’s Administrative Centre, the Federal Territory of Putrajaya between Feb 22 and 26, 2016.
Arul Kanda, 43, was charged with abetting Najib in making amendments to the report to protect Najib from being subjected to disciplinary, civil or criminal action in connection with 1MDB, at the same place and time and in accordance with Section 28(1)(c) of the MACC Act read with Section 23(1) and 24(1) of the same act which provides for similar punishment, if found guilty.
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.
Former Federal Court Judge Gopal Sri Ram is leading the prosecution team together with deputy public prosecutors Datuk Nik Suhaimi Nik Sulaiman, Mohammad Al-Saifi Hashim, Ahmad Akram, Rozaliana Zakaria, Mohamad Mustaffa P Kunyalam, Hazmida Harris Lee, Nadia Zulkefli, Tan Song Yan, Fatimah Hannah Abd Wahab, Munira Syahirah Mohamad Kamal, Nur Syakirin Yaccob and Wafa Zainal Abidin.
Najib is represented by lawyers Shafee, Harvinderjit Singh, Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed, Muhammad Farhan Muhammad Shafee and Syahirah Hanapiah while Arul Kanda is represented by counsels Sivananthan, Jasmine Cheong and Dhanyaa Shreeya Sukumar.
In his opening statement, Gopal Sri Ram claimed that Najib had allegedly taken “positive steps” to alter or remove passages that were factually true in the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB.
He 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.
Gopal Sri Ram claimed that the meeting 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 (PAC).
He said that Arul Kanda by his conduct, preceding the meeting in question, at that meeting and following it, abetted the accused in this transaction.