Former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy (left) is pictured at the Court Complex in Kuala Lumpur on May 30, 2022. — Picture by Devan Manuel
By Ida Lim
Monday, 30 May 2022 10:54 AM MYT
KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s trial over the alleged tampering of the auditor-general’s report on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) could not proceed as scheduled today as his lead defence lawyer, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, was ill.
Rahmat Hazlan, another lawyer for Najib, said he informed the High Court this morning that Shafee had developed a fever and sore throat.
Rahmat said Shafee called this morning to inform him of his illness and sounded like the late Scottish actor, Sean Connery.
“He has not gotten to the clinic yet but he is going to the clinic and so we will send the MC (medical certificate) to the court once he obtains it,” Rahmat told reporters today.
Today was initially scheduled to be the High Court’s hearing of the public prosecutor’s application to have the other accused person in this trial — former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy — called in as a prosecution witness, as well as Najib’s objections to Arul Kanda becoming a witness against him.
Rahmat said he told the court that Shafee is expected to take between 90 minutes and half a day to argue against the application, while the prosecution said lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram would take about half an hour to present its arguments in favour of Arul Kanda being called in as a prosecution witness.
With no objections from the prosecution to the application to adjourn the trial due to Shafee being ill, Rahmat confirmed that the High Court allowed Najib’s lawyers’ application to vacate today’s proceedings.
Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib confirmed to reporters that the prosecution did not object to the application to adjourn today’s court proceedings.
“Rahmat informed the court that Shafee is not well and is at the clinic right now. The prosecution, on those circumstances, we are not objecting to the application,” he told reporters.
Akram also told reporters that the High Court had said the trial dates vacated must be replaced.
Akram confirmed that the initially scheduled trial dates of this Monday to this Thursday has been vacated, with an additional date added on this Friday for the hearing on the application to have Arul Kanda testify against Najib.
The High Court has scheduled October 21, October 25, October 28 as the replacement dates for the trial dates that could not go on this week, he added.
Both Najib and Arul Kanda were spotted in the courtroom today for the trial being heard before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan.
In this trial, Najib is accused of having as then prime minister and then finance minister abused his position between February 22, 2016 and February 26, 2016 to receive self-gratification in the form of protection from civil or criminal action over his role in the handling of 1MDB operations, by instructing for amendments to the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB — which was already finalised and ready to be presented to the parliamentary watchdog Public Accounts Committee (PAC) —before it was finally presented to the PAC.
Arul Kanda was charged with abetting Najib.
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.
On the first day of this trial on November 18, 2019, the prosecution had already informed the court that it would apply to have Arul Kanda be a prosecution witness in the future at an appropriate stage of the trial, using Section 63 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009.
On May 20 which is also close to 30 days of trial, the prosecution filed its application to have Arul Kanda testify as a prosecution witness, explaining that he has information that would be relevant to the charge against Najib and information that would materially affect the outcome of the prosecution of Najib.
Arul Kanda’s lawyer, Datuk N. Sivananthan, did not object to this application for his client to be a prosecution witness and left it to the court to decide, while Shafee had said Najib’s legal team would object.
Under Section 63(1), in a situation where two or more people are charged with an offence under the MACC Act, 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.
Section 63(3) provides that every person accused under the MACC Act and required to give evidence as prosecution witness “shall be entitled to receive a certificate of indemnity”, if the court finds that he has made a “true and full discovery” of all things to which he was examined on, with this certificate to be a bar to all legal proceedings against him over such matters.
Sivananthan had previously in November 2019 told reporters that if the court allows Arul Kanda to be a prosecution witness, it is his view that Section 63 would mean that the charge against his client Arul Kanda must be withdrawn after he completes his testimony as a prosecution witness against Najib.
Arul Kanda currently is still an accused person in this trial.