KUALA LUMPUR (BERNAMA, BLOOMBERG) - Former prime minister Najib Razak and former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) president and chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy were taken to court on Wednesday (Dec 12) over alleged tampering in the final audit report of the graft-tainted state investment fund.
Najib, 65, pleaded not guilty to a charge of using his position as prime minister, to gain protection from a civil disciplinary action relating to 1MDB by way of ordering the final audit report on 1MDB to be tampered with before it was finalised and presented to the Public Accounts Committee.
Arul Kanda, 42, also pleaded not guilty to a charge of abetting Najib. Both men were granted bail by a Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur.
Each of the charges, under Section 28(1)(c) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, carries a maximum 20 years' imprisonment and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
Arul Kanda is the highest-ranking 1MDB officer to be indicted in Malaysia’s revived investigation into the fund, which lies at the centre of a globe-spanning scandal that allegedly saw US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) misappropriated.
The new allegations add to the dozens of 1MDB-linked money laundering and corruption charges that Najib has pleaded not guilty to.
Last week, prosecutors presented charges against other previous employees including former executive director of finance Terence Geh Choh Heng, former business development director Casey Tang, and former general counsel Jasmine Loo.
The charges against Arul Kanda and Najib come after Auditor-General Madinah Mohamad said that a government audit report was changed in February 2016 to remove the mention of Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho's appearance at a 1MDB board meeting.
The statement led to investigations by the police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission as well as a parliamentary committee, which expects to table its findings by March.
Low, better known as Jho Low, has been painted by the US Justice Department as a central figure in the 1MDB scandal. Malaysian prosecutors presented additional charges against Low last week, accusing him of receiving more than US$1 billion from 1MDB in 2009 and 2011, after slapping him with eight counts of money laundering in August.
Low has maintained his innocence.
The order to remove Low from the audit report came through Najib's principal secretary, Auditor-General Madinah said in a statement last month. Najib also ordered that paragraphs containing two versions of 1MDB's financial statements for the year ending 2014 be removed from the document, she said.