Without Najib’s instructions, meeting that resulted in 1MDB audit report’s amendments would not have happened, ex-chief secretary tells High Court

KUALA LUMPUR : The 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) coordination meeting that was held on February 24, 2016, which lead to changes made to its 2016 audit report, would not have happened without Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s instructions, Tan Sri Ali Hamsa told the High Court today.

Ali, who was at that time chief secretary to the government, is prosecution witness in the 1MDB audit tampering trial in which Najib who was then both the prime minister and finance minister is the accused, alongside the sovereign investment fund’s former CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy.

Former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court January 14, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court January 14, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Ali explained that he and then auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang were called to a meeting with Najib on February 22, 2016 to discuss the findings of the 2016 1MDB audit report.

Also discussed at the February 22 meeting was 1MDB two differing sets of financial statements for the year 2014, to which Najib had purportedly promised Ambrin that “he would get to the bottom of this”, the court heard today.

Under re-examination by senior deputy public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, Ali tesified that it was in the February 22 meeting that Najib had instructed for the “coordination” meeting on the audit report to take place.null

Sri Ram: If the meeting on the 22nd had not taken place, would the meeting on February 24th, 2016 then take place?

Ali: It would not have taken place because when the prime minister said ‘he would get to the bottom of this’, the auditor-general was then willing to be part of the meeting [on February 24].

Earlier, under cross-examination by Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Mohd Shafee Abdullah, Ali had again stressed that no one at the “coordination’’ meeting had pressured Ambrin or National Audit Department (NAD) director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad, who was also present in the same meeting, in any way to amend the report.

“I had testified in court before that we even ended the meeting on a jovial mood. I even escorted Ambrin to the door,’’ he said.

Ambrin had previously testified that he was physically drained and upset when he left the “coordination” meeting.

The former auditor-general had repeatedly testified in court that then had already finalised the report prior to the meeting and he was impressed by Ali and Najib’s then principal private secretary Tan Sri Shukry Salleh.

Ali testified that when he was chief secretary to the government, he attended similar meetings on other audits of government agencies that were conducted by the NAD led by Ambrin.

Ali explained that it might seem “accommodating” on the part of the federal auditors to entertain requests by those being audited, but stressed that the final decision in an audit is made solely by the auditor-general who holds discretion powers.

As a result of the so-called coordination meeting and subsequent meetings, 1MDB auditors eventually agreed to remove four items from the final 1MDB audit report, including matters such as mention of 1MDB having two different and conflicting versions of financial statements for 2014 and also mention of Najib’s failure to inform Cabinet of matters linked to 1MDB’s bonds.

The special 1MDB audit team only managed to present the audit findings via the amended audit report to the PAC on March 4 and March 7, 2016, after the amended audit report was printed out on March 2, 2016.

In this trial Najib is charged over his alleged abuse of position as prime minister and finance minister to order the amendments to the 1MDB audit report before its presentation to the PAC to avoid any civil or criminal action against him — and Arul Kanda for allegedly abetting Najib in tampering with the report.

The hearing before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan resumes tomorrow.


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