1MDB audit report tampering was to ‘take care of our leadership’

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

THE instruction to amend the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report was to “take care of our leadership”, believed to favour former Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak.

Former audit director of the National Audit Department (NAD) and witness in the audit report tampering trial, Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad testified that former Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa ordered for the removal of “sensitive issues” from the report that could affect the nation and its leadership.

An audio recording of a meeting was played in the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday, revealing the directives for former Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang to make changes in the audit report allegedly to avert damage of the 1MDB fallout.

The meeting, dubbed as a “coordination meeting”, was held at Ali’s office on Feb 24, 2016.

Lead public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram: If the meeting had not been held, exhibit 84 (the tampered 1MDB audit report) would not have come to existence?

Saadatul Nafisah: Yes.

Sri Ram: During those three hours of meeting, from the impression that you gathered, who would benefit from the suggested amendments?

Saadatul Nafisah: It was more for the nation because Tan Sri Ali said some of the sensitive issues might affect the nation and the stock market.

Sri Ram: In the transcript (of the audio recording), Ali said “we want to take care of our leadership”. What did you understand from “leadership”?

Saadatul Nafisah: The PM.

Sri Ram: The transcript refers to the 1MDB board of advisors. Did you know who was the chairman of the board of advisors?

Saadatul Nafisah: The finance minister who happened to be the PM, too.

The pivotal meeting was secretly audio recorded by NAD audit director Nor Salwani Muhammad.

Nor Salwani had testified that she was not allowed to be in the room and subsequently slid a voice recorder in a pencil case belonging to her superior Saadatul Nafisah.

The meeting was chaired by Ali and attended by, among others, Ambrin, a representative of the Attorney-General’s Chambers Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy (picture).

Arul Kanda was accused of abetting Najib in tampering the company’s audit report, which was then tabled to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee for investigation.

Saadatul Nafisah said the NAD defended the original 1MDB audit report in the meeting’s discussions.

“The group disagreed with our opinion in the report. We presented our opinion and that is normal in any audit report. We were defending our report,” the seventh prosecution witness said.

Ambrin previously testified that he felt cheated after removing issues on the audit report as no action was taken on the matter, despite promises made by Najib.

The sixth prosecution witness told the court that Najib requested the omission of the audit findings on 1MDB’s two conflicting financial records as the latter promised to get the authorities to investigate it.

Ambrin said the NAD found that 1MDB had two versions of financial statements for the financial year ended March 31, 2014. The one was submitted to the Companies Commission of Malaysia stated that 1MDB

utilised the funds raised from the segregated portfolio company (SPC) investment to pay off debts and for working capital; and the other sent to the Finance Ministry, Deutsche Bank AG and AMMB Holdings Bhd, stated that the funds gained from SPC investment were still available in the company’s financials.

The coordination meeting also deliberated other issues found in the 1MDB audit, including the delay of Islamic medium-term notes issuance and the involvement of Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, in a board meeting in approving a joint-venture investment between 1MDB and PetroSaudi International Ltd.

Ambrin said the NAD found that it was unusual for someone who did not have any position or role in 1MDB to attend a board meeting.