MACC officer claims Najib altered 1MDB audit report

Najib Abdul Razak used his authority as the country’s former prime minister and finance minister in 2016 to change a 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report before it was presented to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officer told the Kuala Lumpur High Court today. 

MACC investigating officer Hanif Lami told judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan at the 1MDB audit tampering trial that he had conducted investigations that had led him to the conclusion that Najib had in fact used his authority to order the amendments before it was deliberated by PAC on Feb. 24, 2016.

Reading from his witness statement, Hanif claimed that Najib had told his former principal private secretary Shukry Salleh to get the finished audit report and provide it to Arul Kanda for inspection.

“The second accused (Najib) then ordered that a meeting be held in his office in Putrajaya on Feb. 22, 2016 [which] former auditor general Ambrin Buang and former chief secretary to the government Ali Hamsa had attended,” Hanif said.

He further claimed that Najib urged Ali to arrange a “clarification meeting” with the National Audit Department during this meeting.

“…This meeting was set up because Najib wanted to discuss issues he was not happy with in the 1MDB audit report, the audit report was not to be printed until his (Najib’s) approval was given,” he said.

Hanif said that after looking into the matter, he came to the conclusion that Najib and Arul Kanda had attempted to falsify the audit report in order to shield themselves from any legal or criminal action pertaining to 1MDB and its operations.

He then detailed that on Feb. 24, 2016, on Najib’s instructions, a meeting was held. The meeting was attended by Ali, Shukry, Ambrin, Arul Kanda, former Finance Ministry deputy secretary general Dr Mohamad Isa Hussain, former director of audit Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad and Attorney General’s Chambers representative Dzulkifli Ahmad.

As a result of the meeting, the MACC officer said, four items were removed from the report.

The items were related to two 2014 financial statements, the issuance of Islamic medium-term notes, the identity of the Islamic bonds’ secondary subscriber and fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho’s (also known as Jho Low) presence at 1MDB board meetings.

Rahmat Hazlan, Najib’s attorney, cross-examined the officer about how the MACC had handled the investigations after Hanif had read his witness statement.

He explained to the witness that the MACC had started looking into this situation in November 2018, and that on Dec. 10, 2018, Najib was taken into custody by the MACC, while Arul Kanda was taken into custody the following day, on Dec. 11.

Rahmat added that Najib had provided the MACC with his statement on Dec. 6, 2018.

“Based on the facts, this was all fast (the investigations). I suggest to you that Najib was not given a fair and full investigation,” Rahmat put to the officer.

However, Hanif said that he “did not agree” with the suggestion.

Hanif was kept on the witness stand because lead attorney for Najib, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who wasn’t present in court on Friday, will continue to question the witness.

The trial will continue on Aug. 18.

Najib is accused of abusing his authority to alter the 1MDB audit report before it was delivered to the PAC in order to shield himself from disciplinary, legal, and criminal penalties, while Arul Kanda is accused of aiding and abetting the former PM.

The charges are laid forth in Section 23(1) of the MACC Act 2009, which calls for a maximum 20-year prison sentence and a punishment of at least five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000 (US$2,250), whichever is higher.