by BERNAMA/ pic by BERNAMA
Former Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa told the High Court here today that there were four issues agreed to be removed from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) audit report, including two conflicting versions of the company’s 2014 financial report.
Ali, 64, said former Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang brought up the issue in a 1MDB Audit Report coordination meeting, which was held on the instruction of then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Feb 24, 2016, but no minutes of the meeting were recorded.
“I was only the middle person to resolve issues raised by Datuk Seri Najib which required negotiations and agreements from both 1MDB and National Audit Department.
“1MDB Chief Executive Officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy (picture) was present at the meeting and he had voiced disapproval on various matters in the 1MDB report, and I asked him to explain the reason after he admitted about the two different versions of 2014 1MDB financial report,” said the fourth prosecution witness during examination-in-chief by lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram.
Ali, who is now a retiree, said this when reading out his witness statement on the second day of the trial of Najib and 1MDB former chief executive officer (CEO) Arul Kanda over the alleged tampering of the 1MDB final audit report.
Ali said Arul Kanda had disapproved of the matters highlighted in the 1MDB audit report by the National Audit Department, as they “were not factual and were merely hearsay”, therefore insisting that such matters be omitted from the report.
Ali said Arul Kanda also insisted that the conflicting versions shall not be included in the 1MDB Audit Report and asked for a police investigation to be conducted.
“The meeting also raised the issue of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low’s presence at the 1MDB Board of Directors meeting related to the Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN) investment.
“It was raised in the 1MDB Audit Report because the National Audit Department’s due diligence found that Jho Low did not hold any position nor play any role in 1MDB thus his presence was viewed as red flag,” he added.
He said a representative from the Prime Minister’s Office, Tan Sri Muhammad Shukry Salleh, then requested that the issue be removed from the 1MDB Audit Report, taking into account the sensitivity of the matter and to prevent it from being manipulated by the opposition party at that time and Ambrin agreed.
Ali said the meeting also discussed the issue relating to the delay in the issuance of IMTN bonds with the government guarantee and Muhammad Shukry questioned whether Najib was duty bound to report it in the Cabinet meeting after obtaining the approval from Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
“In response to this, Arul Kanda said his view is that the issues pertaining to the issuance of the IMTN are business decisions.
“A representative from Attorney-General’s Chambers, Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad, also had the same view (as Arul Kanda) and Ambrin then agreed to have that issue removed from the audit report,” Ali said, adding that the final issue that was removed was on the agreement between Country Group Securities Thailand and ACME Time Limited.
On the second day of the meeting on Feb 25, 2016, Ali said Arul Kanda informed him that he (Arul Kanda) had handed over three additional documents to be included in the 1MDB Audit Report which were previously required by the National Audit Department.
Ali further testified that during the whole period of 1MDB Audit Report coordination meeting, Arul Kanda had complained to him that it was difficult dealing with the audit team.
“I informed him that it was mutual for both parties; 1MDB and the National Audit Department had their own difficulties in obtaining documents when conducting the audit.
“Subsequently on March 3, 2018, I saw the audit report document was still ‘embargoed’ so I instructed my senior private secretary to keep the document in a safe,” he said.
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 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.
Najib allegedly committed 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.
The charge was framed under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, which carries a maximum jail term of 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.
Arul Kanda 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 2009 read with Section 23 (1) & 24 (1) of the same act, which provides for similar punishment, if found guilty.
The trial before Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan continues tomorrow.