Allowing 1MDB to review audit report insulting to Ambrin Buang, court hears

  • Nation
  • Monday, 10 Aug 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Tan Sri Ambrin Buang told the High Court that it was "insulting" to him when 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) was allowed to explicitly review the National Audit Department (NAD) audit report on the sovereign wealth fund page-by-page prior to the report being published.

Ambrin also said it was "abnormal" when an auditee was able to review the report and sit in a meeting with other stakeholders, which resulted in several amendments being made to 1MDB's audit report in February, 2016.

The former Auditor-General said this during the cross-examination by lead defense counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who is representing Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the trial here on Monday (Aug 10).

"I find it insulting when the auditee is given the honour of reviewing our report page-by-page, paragraph-by-paragraph. I was told to keep my opinion to myself and write a book about it. How could I be happy," said the retiree.

Ambrin was referring to a meeting held on Feb 24 2016 at the office of the then-chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa, which was attended by stakeholders including 1MDB's CEO at the time, Arul Kanda Kandasamy and representatives from the Attorney General's Chambers and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

The witness said that auditors should be free to express their opinion in their reports as per normal practice, but added his team had to do "abnormal" things beyond normal practice during the Feb 24 meeting.

Ambrin added that the 1MDB audit was special as it was mandated by the Cabinet under Najib at the time and the NAD, and said that it was only to be presented to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

He also said that Najib's then-principal private secretary Tan Sri Shukry Salleh as well as Ali expressed the need for the report to be amended to avoid the Opposition "spinning" its contents.

The court had earlier heard testimonies saying that there was an agreement to omit four issues from the audit report, including the issue of two conflicting financial statements and the presence of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho at 1MDB meetings.

During the cross-examination, Shafee asked the witness if someone had "pointed a gun to his head" to make him change the contents of the report and Ambrin disagreed.

To another question as to whether Najib's former principal private secretary Tan Sri Shukry Salleh, who also attended the Feb 24 meeting on behalf of the PMO had specifically pressured him to make the changes, Ambrin answered no.

Najib, 67, is accused of abusing his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report to avoid any action being taken against him while Arul Kanda is charged with abetting Najib in making the amendments to the report.

Both men were charged under Section 23(1) of the MACC Act 2009, which provides a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

The hearing before Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan continues on Wednesday (Aug 12).

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