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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Najib told auditors to drop ‘sensitive’ parts in 1MDB audit, court told


Najib Razak insisted that the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB needed to be reviewed before it went to the printers, a witness told the High Court. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: A former principal private secretary to Najib Razak told the High Court today the former prime minister instructed him to tell government auditors not to include “sensitive” contents in the 1MDB audit report.

Shukry Mohd Salleh, who worked for Najib from 2015 to 2016, said the conversation took place on Feb 26, 2016 in the prime minister’s office.

“He said something like ‘Shukry, tell the Audit (national audit department or NAD) that sensitive issues including Jho Low (Low Taek Jho) not to be included in the report. If this goes to the opposition, it will become an issue’,” he said.

Subsequently, Shukry said, he called NAD director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad and informed her about Najib’s instructions.

He said that earlier in February 2016, Najib had instructed him to get the 1MDB audit report from NAD, stating that the report “needs to be checked before it goes to the printer”.

“The prime minister was afraid that the report would contain something out of the ordinary,” Shukry said.

The witness told the court he called former auditor-general Ambrin Buang to relay Najib’s instructions.

“Ambrin was reluctant initially, citing that the report needs to be printed quickly for the Public Accounts Committee,” he said.

The court had heard that Ambrin and his officers conducted their audit on 1MDB from March 9, 2015 to March 4, 2016.

Shukry said Najib insisted that the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB needed to be reviewed and he informed Ambrin about this.

“I received a parcel from Saadatul on Feb 20, 2016, which contained the report,” he said.

“I did not read the report but informed the prime minister about the parcel. I suggested to him that Arul Kanda (Kandasamy) look at the report and he agreed.”

Shukry said he met Arul Kanda a few days later at his office and the former CEO informed him that “some facts need to be amended”.

“He told me he met Ambrin over the contents in the audit report and that many documents were not with 1MDB.

“I suggested to Arul Kanda to talk to Ambrin and he (Arul Kanda) also passed me a few pieces of paper on his observations about the report,” he said.

Shukry said he and Ambrin met then chief secretary to the government Ali Hamsa on Feb 23, 2016. Ali said he had arranged a meeting the next day and invited senior government officers from the Treasury, attorney-general chambers as well as Arul Kanda to discuss the matter.

“I told Ali and Ambrin that 1MDB was a ‘crisis that needed to be handled immediately’ because the company had become the talk of the town, locally and outside the country,” Shukry said.

What Shukry told the Feb 24, 2016 meeting

The court was previously told that Ambrin and his officers attended a meeting chaired by Ali on Feb 24, 2016.

“On the two sets of financial statements, I informed the meeting that this matter can have an impact on investors’ confidence on us,” Shukry had said.

“This can give rise to the impression that a government-owned company like 1MDB can be manipulated.”

He said Ali asked then Treasury deputy secretary-general Mohd Isa Hussain to lodge a police report over the two financial statements.

After the meeting, government auditors agreed to remove four items – two sets of financial statements, and reference on Low and the issuance of bonds – from the final report.

Shukry said he also raised the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s request to suspend issuance of Islamic medium-term notes during Najib’s audience with the King on May 27, 2009.

The auditor-general’s report pointed out that Najib agreed with the King’s suggestion to suspend the bonds but this information was not passed to the Cabinet on the same day.

“The auditors’ comments implied that the prime minister was trying to hide something. NAD agreed to remove this after hearing Dzulkifli Ahmad’s (AGC representative) advice,” he said.

Najib is standing trial for alleged abuse of power as prime minister and finance minister to obtain immunity from legal action and causing amendments to the finalised 1MDB audit report before it was tabled at the PAC meeting.

Arul Kanda is accused of abetting him.

The hearing before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan continues on Oct 20. - FMT

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