KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 — Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad — who had given his legal advice as an Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) representative on the removal of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s mention in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) audit report — later became the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief, the High Court heard today.
Former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa, 64, confirmed this when testifying in the joint trial of Najib and 1MDB former chief executive Arul Kanda Kandasamy over the alleged tampering of the auditor-general’s 2016 report on 1MDB.
Ali noted that Dzulkifli’s views were sought during a February 24, 2016 meeting involving 1MBD and government officials to discuss changes to the auditor-general’s audit report on 1MDB.
One of the changes discussed then was to remove the mention of Najib’s agreement in a May 27, 2009 meeting with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the delay of a RM5 billion fund-raising exercise involving government-guaranteed Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN), as well as the removal of mention that Najib had failed to disclose this to the Cabinet in a separate meeting on the same day.
During the February 2016 meeting to discuss the proposed removal of the incident involving Najib, his then principal private secretary Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh had asked if Najib was duty-bound to report the delay in the IMTN bonds issuance to the Cabinet after obtaining the Agong’s approval, Ali said.
In the February 2016 meeting, Arul Kanda had said that the IMTN bonds issuance was a business decision, while then auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang had said he was unsure about the procedures involved for the IMTN issuance delay, Ali said.
“I sought legal advice from Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad, a representative from AGC who was present at the said meeting.
“Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad informed me that the delay in issuance of the IMTN was a business decision and was not necessary to be raised at the Cabinet meeting.
“Taking into account the explanation from the AGC representative, Tan Sri Ambrin Buang agreed to have that issue removed,” Ali said.
Those who attended the February 2016 meeting were representatives from 1MDB (Arul Kanda), National Audit Department (Ambrin, Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad), Treasury (Datuk Seri Mohamad Isa Hussain, Asri Hamdin), Attorney General’s Chambers (Dzulkifli), Prime Minister’s Office (Shukry) and Ali’s own senior private secretary Datuk Norazman Ayob.
As a result of the February 2016 meeting which Ali said was held in line with Najib’s instructions, a total of four issues including Najib’s role in the fund-raising matter was removed from the federal audit report on 1MDB.
The same man who succeeded Abu Kassim
Ali confirmed today that Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed was the MACC chief at the time of the February 2016 meeting, but said the latter was subsequently placed elsewhere.
“Tan Sri Abu Kassim wanted to take leave after his backache and he wanted to be placed somewhere else, so we placed him in UiTM,” Ali said when asked by lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram during examination-in-chief.
Ali said he had in an “unofficial” conversation suggested to then prime minister Najib that one of Abu Kassim’s deputies could take over the MACC chief post, adding that Najib had then said he “would consider” the recommendation.
Noting that the prime minister has the prerogative to recommend the candidate for the MACC chief position to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Ali confirmed that Dzulkifli was eventually appointed.
Sri Ram: Is it the same Datuk Dzulkifli who attended the meeting and gave the opinion?
On June 23, 2016, Ali had announced on behalf of the government that Abu Kassim would cease to be MACC chief on August 1 but remain as an anti-corruption officer until his mandatory retirement in December 2020, also saying that Abu Kassim would take on a new role as a consultant at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM).
On July 29, 2016, Ali announced Dzulkifli as Abu Kassim’s replacement with effect from August 1, 2016, also saying that Dzulkifli would hold the position as MACC chief until July 31, 2021.
Following the defeat of the Barisan Nasional coalition which was led by Najib in the 14th general elections, Dzulkifli’s role as MACC chief ended on May 14, 2018 after he reportedly sent in his resignation letter.
In this trial, Najib was 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, while Arul Kanda was charged with abetting Najib in the report’s tampering.
Both their offences are punishable under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 with a maximum 20-year jail term, and a fine of at least five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000 or whichever is higher.
The trial before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan resumes tomorrow morning.