KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 13 — The final audit report on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was given in 2016 to then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s aide as requested, just days before government auditors were told to make changes to the report which ultimately resulted in a delay of the report’s presentation to parliamentary watchdog Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the High Court heard today.
Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad, who led the National Audit Department’s (NAD) special 1MDB audit team, was speaking of the events that happened before the team could present its final audit report to the PAC on the scheduled date of February 24, 2016.
Saadatul Nafisah said the then auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang had contacted her at around 6pm on February 19, 2016 to inform her of Najib’s then chief private secretary Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh’s request for a draft copy of the final audit report.
“Tan Sri Ambrin told me this was for the purpose of Tan Sri Shukry to read that report. With this, I was instructed by Tan Sri Ambrin to hand over a copy of the draft of the final audit report to Tan Sri Shukry,” she said while testifying as the seventh prosecution witness against Najib and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
Saadatul Nafisah said that she had then at around 9am on February 20, 2016 instructed NAD officer Suraya Adnan who was tasked with keeping the draft final report’s soft copy to print out one copy, adding that the latter then placed the printed report into a sealed envelope that was marked Rahsia (Secret).
After receiving Shukry’s phone number from Ambrin, Saadatul Nafisah said she had then sent a WhatsApp message to Shukry to inform him that she was instructed to hand him a copy of the draft of the final report.
She said Shukry had then asked for the report to be given to him at his house in Precint 10, Putrajaya, and that she had at around 10am on February 20, 2016 personally handed them over to him at the gate of his house.
“He did not say anything or give any instructions to me at that time,” she said when reading her witness statement in court.
Ambrin had previously confirmed this incident in court.
When explaining why she had handed over the draft copy of the final audit report to Najib’s aide, Saadatul Nafisah today said this was done in line with the NAD’s usual auditing process and standard operating procedure.
She noted that the NAD would typically send a draft copy of the final audit report to those being audited and the minister responsible for a final check and verification, before the final audit report is actually printed out.
She said corrections or additions or amendments of content could be done if valid supporting evidence is provided.
“Besides that, according to NAD’s standard operating procedure, a draft copy to the minister responsible and in this matter it is the finance minister that is Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
“In this matter also, I agreed to hand over that to Tan Sri Shukry on Tan Sri Ambrin’s instructions as I believed that he wanted to read and present it to Datuk Seri Najib as the Finance Minister at that time,” she said when commenting on the audit report on 1MDB which is fully-owned by the Finance Ministry.
The final audit report on 1MDB was also sent for printing on February 20, 2016, with 60 copies fully printed on February 21, 2016 and kept securely at the Chief Government Security Office’s office.
But before the 1MDB special audit team could present the report to the PAC on February 24, 2016, Ambrin was asked by Najib via Shukry on February 22, 2016 to meet over the report’s contents.
Based on testimony by previous witnesses, Najib had allegedly personally asked Ambrin to remove contents from the report and had also instructed then chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa to coordinate a meeting to discuss the report’s content.
Following the February 22, 2016 meeting, a subsequent meeting of high-level officials was chaired on February 24, 2016 by Ali where 1MDB auditors were asked to remove certain contents from the completed 1MDB audit report.
As a result of that 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.
The hearing before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan resumes tomorrow afternoon.
Today is the seventh day of the joint trial of Najib — 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.