Unlike in 1MDB, Najib did not seek copy, amendments to KLIA2 project audit report, High Court told

KUALA LUMPUR : Prosecutors accused Datuk Seri Najib Razak of inconsistency in his conduct with government auditors over past special audit undertakings, such as the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) project, with those performed on sovereign wealth firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) at the High Court here today (Oct 20).

In the 1MDB audit tampering trial, former audit director of the National Audit Department (NAD) Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad who was seventh prosecution witness, returned to the stand for re-examination by senior deputy public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram.

The prosecutor highlighted the special circumstances of the 1MDB special audit in 2016 and asked Saadatul if the aforementioned undertaking by her department was the first of its kind.

She replied that it wasn’t, as the Cabinet under Najib as the prime minister had previously agreed to a special audit to be conducted on KLIA2 back in 2015.

Sri Ram then used this and compared it to Najib’s conduct in 1MDB’s 2016 special audit report.

Saadatul noted that Najib had neither made any request for a copy nor asked for any amendments to be made to the KLIA2 special audit report then.

She explained that a special audit was different from a normal audit in that the former is usually a formal request by the Cabinet, special authorities or Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to the Auditor-General and the NAD.

She also affirmed that the NAD, in any special audit exercise, has never given a copy of its report to the entities being audited.

Former National Audit Department director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex February 23, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Former National Audit Department director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex February 23, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

When asked, Saadatul also affirmed that a special audit is investigative by nature.

Sri Ram: You described this [1MDB audit] as a special audit, is this the first time it has been done?

Saadatul: No, we have done a few before this.

Sri Ram: Can you give His Lordship examples [of previous special audits]?

Saadatul: There was a Cabinet request on KLIA2 in 2015.

Sri Ram: And who was the prime minister when the special audit was carried out? Was it the second accused [Najib]?

Saadatul: Yes.

Sri Ram: Did the second accused ask for a copy of the KLIA2 special audit report and for any changes to be made?

Saadatul: No.

In her court testimony, Saadatul had affirmed a public statement issued by Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai in May 2015, who was the transport minister in the Najib Cabinet at that time.

In that statement, Liow announced that the Cabinet had approved an audit to be conducted of the KLIA2 project in Sepang.

The KLIA2 project development was alleged to have overrun its initial costs.

Previously, Najib’s former principal private secretary Tan Sri Shukry Salleh testified that the then prime minister had directed him to have the NAD redact sensitive information, including the involvement of businessman Low Taek Jho, from its audit report on 1MDB in 2016.

Shukry testified that he contacted Saadatul, who at the time was leading NAD’s special audit team for 1MDB, after receiving instructions in a meeting at Najib’s office on February 26, 2016.

The February 26 meeting with Najib at his office took place two days after a meeting with in the office of Tan Sri Ali Hamsa who was at that time the chief secretary to the government.

Other officials said to be present then were Tan Sri Ambrin Buang who was the auditor-general then, and the then 1MDB chief executive Arul Kanda Kandasamy, among others.

According to previous testimony, the February 24 meeting was when decisions were made to remove or change certain parts of the audit report, including omitting the existence of 1MBD’s two conflicting financial statements for 2014 and Low’s involvement with the company.

Another prosecution witness, government auditor Datuk Nor Salwani Muhammad also previously testified that the original 2016 1MDB final audit report done by the NAD would have been tabled to the PAC if not for the February 24, 2016 meeting.

Nor Salwani had affirmed that her department then had already concluded its audit on the troubling sovereign wealth firm and was ready to table its final report to the PAC on the same day but rescheduled due to the aforementioned high-level meeting among stakeholders.

In this trial, Najib is charged with abusing his position as prime minister and finance minister to order amendments in February 2016 to the auditor-general’s audit report on 1MDB before its presentation to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to avoid any civil or criminal action against him.

Arul Kanda is accused of abetting Najib in tampering with the audit report.

Both offences are punishable under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 with a maximum 20-year jail term, and a fine of at least five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

The trial resumes November 29.


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