Ex-aide: Najib had me instruct Audit Dept to remove sensitive info, including Jho Low’s involvement

Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at Kuala Lumpur High Court September 30, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at Kuala Lumpur High Court September 30, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s former principal private secretary testified today that the former directed him to have the National Audit Department (NAD) redact sensitive information including Low Taek Jho or Jho Low’s involvement from its audit report on 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in 2016.

Testifying in court today as the 11th prosecution witness, Tan Sri Shukry Salleh said the former prime minister issued the instructions during a meeting at Najib’s office on February 26, 2016.

Shukry testified that he then contacted Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad, who at the time was leading NAD’s special audit team for 1MDB.

“On February 26, 2016, I have met Datuk Seri Najib at his office and Datuk Seri Najib have instructed me sort of in this manner ‘Shukry, you talk to audit (department) that all sensitive and irrelevant issues including Jho Low in 1MDB is not included in the report. Later if this matter reached the opposition, it could become an issue’. I then contacted Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad and relayed Datuk Seri Najib’s instructions,’’ he said.

The February 26 meeting with Najib at his office had happened after a February 24, 2016, meeting at the office of the then Chief Secretary to the Government, Tan Sri Ali Hamsa, which involved then auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang and 1MDB then 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 Jho Low’s involvement with the company.

Earlier in his witness statement, Shukry said during the February 24 meeting, Ali Hamsa stated that the meeting was called to “coordinate” several issues that Najib was unsatisfied with the findings of NAD’s audit of 1MDB.

Shukry also stated that the meeting also discussed 1MDB’s two conflicting financial statements and such matters could bring huge negative implications to the country.

“This is because if a company this big under the government of Malaysia such as 1MDB can be manipulated, it can have huge implications towards investors’ sentiments,’’ he said.

Referring to the original audit report, Shukry testified that he had raised concerns over Najib agreeing with Yang di-Pertuan Agong (then the Terengganu Sultan) to delay of the issuance of the RM5 billion Islamic Medium Term Notes pending a meeting on May 27, 2009.

However, the Cabinet was allegedly not told of this delay when it met later the same day, he said.

“To me, the wording used in the report indicates that Datuk Seri Najib is hiding something. At the time, I only raise questions wheter Datuk Seri Najib is duty bound to follow the law and regulations to inform the Cabinet on the matter. The meeting had agreed to drop the matter after getting legal advice from a representative from the Attorney General’s Chambers, which is Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad,’’ he said.

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.

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