1MDB Audit Trial: Ambrin Felt “Insulted” After Arul Kanda Allowed to Review His Audit Report

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Ambrin said Arul Kanda had gone through the report page by page and removed portions of it after being authorised to do so by then-Chief Secretary to the government.

Former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang said it was insulting that 1MDB was allowed by the government to review the National Audit Department’s (NAD) report on the company, page by page, before it was published.

“I find it insulting for that the auditee is given the honour to review my report, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, so whatever opinion we expressed in the report will be removed.

Saifullizan Tamadi/NST

“I was told to keep my opinion to myself. Write a book how I could be happy,” he said while under cross-examination by lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah during former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s 1MDB audit tampering trial.

Ambrin said Arul Kanda had gone through the report page by page and removed portions of it after being authorised to do so by then-Chief Secretary to the government, Tan Sri Ali Hamsa.

However, Ambrin did not elaborate on who had told him to keep his opinion to himself.

Ambrin said the meeting on Feb 24, 2016, which was called after Najib’s then principal private secretary, Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh, learnt about the draft report and asked for the removal of certain contents which was “abnormal”.

“The amendments were not only in terms of specific issues like the separate financial statements.

“What I was not happy was that Ali Hamsa authorised Arul Kanda to sit down with my team and review our report, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, and remove references out. This is abnormal,” Ambrin said.

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

Najib, 67, is accused of using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report that had already been finalised by the Auditor General before it was tweaked again and presented to the PAC.

He is accused of committing the offence between Feb 22 and 26, 2016 at the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya.

Arul Kanda, 44, is accused of abetting Najib in making amendments to the report, at the same place and time.

Hari Anggara

Shafee also asked Ambrin if he had complained about being pressured to change things in his report to members of the PAC. Ambrin replied that he did not take the matter up to that extent.

Questioned if he had indeed been pressured to alter the 1MDB report before it was presented to the PAC, Ambrin said the government back then was worried that the report would be manipulated by the Opposition.

He said messages to that extent were constantly relayed to him by Ali and Najib’s former private secretary who both wanted the report to be changed.

Shafee: Nobody put a gun to your head and said you alter, or else?

Ambrin: Who wants to put a gun to my head?

Shafee: You are not saying you were asked to do the wrong things?

Ambrin: No.

Shafee: You are not saying that “I had to stomach untruth content” in the audit report?

Ambrin: No

Shafee: In this case I put it to you that if your report has elements of untruth in its content, then you will be considered as an accomplice

Ambrin: No, no I am not an accomplice to anything.

Shafee: Basically, nobody can accuse you of conspiring to do the wrong thing.

Ambrin: Yes.

Shafee: Did the PM (Najib) ever tell you to drop this and that from the report?

Ambrin: No, not directly.

Asked by Shafee whether he brought up the matter when he went before the PAC investigating the tampering issue in December 2018, Ambrin, 70, who is now a retiree, said the hearing was not completed as the matter was later brought to the court.

The witness was also asked about his previous statement in 2018, where he maintained that the 1MDB audit report was not tampered with, as he reiterated it during the proceeding with the PAC.

“In this case, there were amendments to the audit report and authorised in my capacity as the then auditor-general. I appeared before the PAC to say there was no tampering by someone outside my control. I simply do not agree with the word ‘tampering’,” he said.

The trial before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan resumes on Wednesday.

Earlier reports:

Jul 27, 1MDB Audit Trial: Arul Kanda Had No Power to Influence Probe

Jul 27, 1MDB Audit Trial: Ali Hamsa Denies Threatening Auditor-General Ambrin to Get Report Changed

Jul 23, 1MDB Audit Trial: August 7 for Decision on Striking out Application

Jun 24, 1MDB Audit Trial: Court Allows Prosecution to Amend Charges Against Najib, Arul Kanda

Jun 17, 1MDB Audit Trial: Defence Says Charge Amendments Substantial Not Just Typos

Jun 16, 1MDB Audit Trial: Prosecution Seeks to Amend Charges

Jun 16, 1MDB Audit Trial: No One Threatened Auditor-General into Altering Reports

Jun 16, 1MDB Audit Trial: Ali Hamsa Calls Taping of Meeting Unethical as No Permission Granted

Jan 16, 1MDB Audit Trial: Day Nine

Jan 14, 1MDB Audit Trial: Day Eight

Jan 14, 1MDB Audit Trial: Day Seven

Nov 29, 1MDB Audit Trial: Day Six

Nov 28, Former A-G Ambrin Told That Tarnishing Najib’s Reputation Akin to Sullying Nation’s Image

Nov 27, Ambrin: I Ordered Auditor Salwani to Save Sole 1MDB Audit Report, Destroy the Rest

Nov 21, 1MDB Audit Trial: Day Four

Nov 21, 1MDB Audit Trial: Day Three

Nov 20, 1MDB Audit Trial: Day Two

Nov 19, 1MDB Audit Trial: Day One