Order to tweak 1MDB report came from Najib, says witness

KUALA LUMPUR: The former principal private secretary to Datuk Seri Najib Razak told the High Court that the former premier had directed him to instruct the National Audit Department (NAD) to exclude “sensitive” information involving businessman Low Taek Jho from the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report.

Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh, 67, testified that the instructions were issued during a meeting at Najib’s office on Feb 26, 2016.

This instruction came two days after a coordination meeting, attended by several agencies, was chaired by former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa and held at the behest of Najib on Feb 24, 2016.

“Najib had said (on Feb 26), ‘Shukry, you tell audit so that sensitive and irrelevant issues such as Jho Low (Low Taek Jho) in 1MDB are not included in the report. If the matter reaches the Opposition, it could be turned into an issue’,” said Shukry.

The witness said he then contacted NAD’s former audit director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad and relayed the instructions.

Shukry, who was the 11th prosecution witness, was reading his witness statement at the 1MDB audit trial involving Najib and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy yesterday.

He said Najib had in February 2016 directed him to obtain the 1MDB audit report from the NAD as the report had to be checked before it was published.

“This was because he was concerned that the report contained nonsense,” he said.

Shukry also testified that prior to the Feb 26 meeting with Najib, he had met with former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang and Ali at the latter’s office on Feb 23, 2016.In the meeting, Ali informed Shukry and Ambrin that he had arranged for the coordination meeting with representatives from the NAD, 1MDB, the Treasury and the Attorney General Chambers (AGC) on Feb 24, 2016.

“In the meeting, I informed Ali and Ambrin that 1MDB had become a crisis that needed to be managed immediately. What I mean by that is that 1MDB had attracted attention from inside and outside of the country.

“Before meeting Ambrin, Ali and I had met with Arul Kanda separately where Arul Kanda explained to Ali about 1MDB’s financial issues,” he said during an examination-in-chief conducted by deputy public prosecutor Nadia Zulkefli.

Shukry – who ended his contract as the principal private secretary on Sept 30, 2016 – also told the court that he attended the Feb 24 coordination meeting with Najib’s approval.

Besides Shukry, the meeting was attended by Arul Kanda (1MDB), Ambrin and Saadatul Nafisah (NAD), Datuk Seri Mohmad Isa Hussain and Asri Hamidin@ Hamidon (Treasury), Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad (AGC) and Ali’s senior private secretary Datuk Norazman Ayob.

According to Shukry, Ali informed those who attended that the meeting was called to coordinate several issues that Najib was dissatisfied with, in the 1MDB audit report.

The meeting also discussed two versions of 1MDB financial statements for the year 2014.

“I had said that this could affect the confidence of foreign parties in our country. If a huge company under the government like 1MDB could be manipulated, it could have implications on investment sentiments,” he said.

Shukry said Ali then directed Mohmad Isa to lodge a police report over the two versions of the 1MDB financial statements and Ambrin agreed to drop the issue from the audit report on 1MDB.

After Shukry was done reading his witness statement, the court replayed an audio recording of the Feb 24 1MDB audit report coordination meeting. The recording lasted two hours and 45 minutes.

To a question by deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib, Shukry confirmed that it was his voice that is heard in the recording.

Najib, 68, 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 accused of abetting Najib in making the amendments to the report.

The hearing resumes before Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan on Oct 20.

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