KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s aide had described the auditor-general’s 2016 report on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) as a “crisis” and wanted mention of Low Taek Jho omitted to prevent it from becoming political ammunition, the High Court heard today.
Former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa, 64, today testified in court that Low or Jho Low’s presence at a 1MDB board meeting was initially included in the 2016 federal audit report.
“This issue was addressed in the 1MDB Audit Report because the National Audit Department’s due diligence found that Jho Low did not hold any position nor played any role in 1MDB.
“Therefore, his presence in the said meeting was viewed as a red flag,” Ali said when testifying against Najib and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy in the latter two’s joint trial.
The 1MDB board meeting that Low had attended was related to the company’s borrowings via a RM5 billion fund-raising exercise through the issuance of bonds via Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN).
Ali said Najib’s then principal private secretary Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh had during a February 24, 2016 meeting asked for the audit report to remove mention of Low’s presence.
“Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh requested for this issue to be removed from the 1MDB Audit Report taking into account the sensitivity of the matter and to prevent it from being manipulated by the opposition party at that point of time,” Ali said.
Ali said then Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang had “agreed” to the request.
Ali said he had on Najib’s instructions called for the February 24, 2016 meeting to coordinate changes to the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB before its presentation to Parliament’s watchdog Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Those who attended the 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 (Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad), Prime Minister’s Office (Shukry) and Ali’s own senior private secretary Datuk Norazman Ayob.
In a separate meeting on February 23, 2016 with just Ambrin and Shukry, Ali said he had told them of the planned meeting the next day to coordinate the changes.
“In that meeting with both of them, Tan Sri Shukry informed us that the 1MDB Audit Report became a crisis that has to be handled immediately,” Ali said, adding that he had not responded to the remark or asked further and only took note of it as 1MDB was a “sensational” issue then.
Ali had held the February 23 meeting after having been told the previous day by Najib to coordinate for changes to the 1MDB audit report, owing to Najib’s dissatisfaction over the contents.
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 the PAC to avoid any civil or criminal action against him, while Arul Kanda was charged with abetting Najib in the report’s tampering.
In the charge sheets against both Najib and Arul, four main changes to the 1MDB audit report were listed out.
One of the key changes was the omission in the final 1MDB audit report of the National Audit Department’s findings that Low was recorded in meeting minutes as having attended a September 26, 2009 1MDB board meeting.
Also omitted was mention of 1MDB’s submission in June 2015 of another version of the meeting minutes without Low’s name recorded as an attendee.