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Monday, July 27, 2020

Arul Kanda's lawyer zooms in on Najib's rep, sets table as prosecution witness


Former chief secretary to the government Ali Hamsa was today grilled over why Shukry Mohd Salleh, the principal private secretary to then prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, was involved in the meetings to address the National Audit Department's (NAD) report on 1MDB when he was neither the auditor nor auditee.
Ali, who was supposed to be cross-examined by Najib's lead defence counsel Shafee Abdullah at the 1MDB audit tampering trial today, was instead questioned by N Sivananthan who is acting for former 1MDB chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
Najib was in court since 9.10am but the trial only started almost an hour later after it was revealed that Shafee is ill and cannot be present. Sivananthan was then asked to conduct the cross-examination.
Najib is accused of tampering with the final NAD report on 1MDB to allegedly conceal issues with the state-owned fund while Arul Kanda is accused of abetment.
Sivanathan had previously said Arul Kanda was willing to appear as a prosecution witness against Najib if the prosecution dropped the abetment charge.
Arul Kanda's defence team had on Jan 14 informed the court that they do not intend to cross-examine any more prosecution witnesses so as not to compromise Arul Kanda's potential position as a prosecution witness himself.
However, in Shafee's absence today, Sivananthan proceeded with the cross-examination anyway, and his line of questioning appeared to zoom in on Najib's representative.
Explaining the decision to proceed with the cross-examination, Sivananthan later told journalists he was showing that Arul Kanda would be a suitable prosecution witness.
"I want to establish that calling him is the right thing to do," he said.
During the trial, Sivananthan grilled Ali on why Shukri had a say in the 1MDB audit report, particularly on the discovery that the state fund had submitted two different versions of its financial statement.
Shukri was present during the Feb 24, 2016 meeting when changes were made to the 1MDB audit report and also in pre-meetings.
Sivananthan: Why did Shukri comment about the dual account when he has nothing to do with 1MDB?
Ali: I cannot recall.
Sivananthan: Why did you allow him to make comments when he has no business with the audit?
Ali: He was from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
Sivananthan: That gives him an automatic right to comment? What is his interest? Why was he allowed to comment?
Ali: No answer.
Sivananthan: You allowed him to speak, you did not stop him.
Ali: I did not stop him.
Sivananthan: Because he is from PMO?
Ali: Yes.
Sivananthan was cross-examining Ali over the presence of Shukri during the earlier meetings before Feb 24, namely on Feb 23.
Feb 24, 2016, was the crucial meeting where the alleged decision was made to remove certain issues from the 1MDB audit report, such as the issue of the two conflicting financial statements of 1MDB.
During the cross-examination by Sivananthan, Ali also conceded that Arul Kanda vigorously defended the interests of 1MDB during the meeting.
Sivananthan: Would I be correct to say that during the Feb 24 meeting, Arul defended the interest of 1MDB?
Ali: He defended the interest of 1MDB, as he was in charge of 1MDB then.
Ali also conceded that despite whatever views aired by Arul Kanda and others present during the Feb 24, 2016 meeting, but that the ultimate decision on whether to remove certain issues from the 1MDB audit report still fell on then auditor-general Ambrin Buang.
After Sivananthan has wrapped up his cross-examination, lead deputy public prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram informed the court that the prosecution is reserving re-examination of Ali because Najib’s defence team has not managed to fully cross-examined the witness yet.
Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan then adjourned the proceedings to Wednesday (July 29) at 9am. - Mkini

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