KUALA LUMPUR: The third criminal trial involving Datuk Seri Najib Razak is slated to start next week after the High Court today dismissed an application to postpone hearings.
This time, the former Prime Minster will be jointly tried with former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chief executive officer (CEO) Arul Kanda Kandasamy for allegedly tampering with the sovereign wealth fund’s final audit report.
Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, when dismissing the prosecution’s application, said it was difficult to find alternative dates for the hearing.
Deputy public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram – who is leading the prosecution team – had asked for the postponement, as their key prosecution witness is currently testifying under cross-examination in Najib’s ongoing criminal hearing involving the misappropriation of RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds.
He informed the court that Najib’s lead counsel, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, had on Nov 6 indicated that it was unlikely that the cross-examination against former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi would be completed by Nov 14.
Commenting on this, Zaini said the prosecution can always call another witness to give evidence while waiting for Shahrol to finish his testimony.
“I can assure you I will not be pressing him (Shahrol) to give evidence until he completes his testimony in 1MDB’s case,” he said.
The trial dates were originally fixed from Nov 18 to 29, and between Jan 13 and 17, next year.
On Dec 12 last year, Arul Kanda, 43, was charged at the Sessions Court with committing the offence between Feb 22 and 26, 2016.
He allegedly abetted Najib, 66, in using the latter’s position as then-Prime Minister to order the amendment to the report.
On the same day, Najib was charged with 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 being taken against him.
Najib was charged, in his capacity as a public officer, which was the Prime Minister, with using the position to obtain gratification for himself 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, which he directly had interest in.