1MDB Audit Trial: Day Six

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End of proceeding for this year.

9.25am: Former 1MDB CEO K Arul Kanda enters the court and takes a seat at the front row of the public gallery.

9.29am: Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak enters the High Court and takes a seat at the front row of the public gallery.

Hasnoor Hussain/TMI

Also seen in court awaiting proceedings to begin are lead DPP Gopal Sri Ram and other DPPs, as well as members of Najib’s defence team.

9.40am: Najib and Arul enter the dock as proceedings begin.

Sri Ram informs the High Court that the former prime minister’s lead defence counsel, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, would be a little late as he has another matter to attend to, but that Shafee has agreed for proceedings to carry on without him.

The court then plays back the two hours and 45 minutes audio recording of the Feb 24, 2016 meeting in which a decision was made to remove four controversial issues from the 1MDB final audit report.

The playback is for identification purpose by former auditor-general Ambrin Buang, who is in the witness dock listening intently to the recording of the meeting.

Also seen in court is Arul Kanda’s lead defence counsel N Sivananthan and the rest of his legal team.

9.57am: Shafee is seen entering the High Court and taking a seat with other members of Najib’s defence team, while the audio recording playback of the Feb 24, 2016, meeting is still going on in court.

Azneal Ishak/Malaysiakini

Feb 24, 2016 was a meeting involving Ambrin, then chief secretary Ali Hamsa and Arul, among others, where a decision was made to remove four controversial issues from the 1MDB final audit report.

11.20am: The High Court wraps up the full playback of the two hours and 45 minutes audio recording.

The first hour of the audio recording was heard during the previous day’s proceedings.

The court goes for a short break.

12pm: Proceedings resume.

12.07pm: The court hears from Ambrin that Ali had told a meeting on Feb 24, 2016 that contents of the audit report on 1MDB could tarnish the name of then prime minister Najib.

Ambrin claims that the attendees at the meeting were told to defend the PM.

“My opinion at that time was that everybody was really worried about our report,” Ambrin tells the court.

According to the sixth prosecution witness, he, however, was not worried about the report, and was ready to defend the National Audit Department’s (NAD) findings on 1MDB before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing.

12.12pm: Ambrin expresses frustration with questions raised over the finalisation of the 1MDB audit report in 2016, the High Court hears.

“I felt so frustrated for so many reasons. While in the (meeting) room with the people, there were a lot of questions about our (National Audit Department) audit report (on 1MDB) at that time being finalised.

“We were prepared to defend our (initial report) at the PAC (public accounts committee hearing on 1MDB), Ambrin says.

He adds that NAD was unhappy with attempts to remove the issues from the 1MDB final audit report as they spent a lot of time hunting the required information and had even been generous with 1MDB in giving them time to respond to queries by NAD in preparing the report.

“The other frustration is that the people (at the meeting) sometimes do not understand the role of the National Audit Department.

“We (NAD) look at things based on facts and these facts must be verified by supporting documents,” Ambrin says, adding that the auditor- general’s role is one enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

12.37pm: Ambrin testifies that the amended audit report on 1MDB prepared by the NAD in 2016 was 16 pages shorter than its original version.

Ambrin says this in confirming the original version published by NAD on Feb 21, 2016, had 354 pages.

The amended report, which had also been tendered as evidence in the trial, has a total of 338 pages.

“Because there were items omitted from this report,” Ambrin says when answering a question by DPP Akram Gharib on why the amended report had fewer pages.

Prior to this, Ambrin also confirms to the court that Chapter 3 of the amended audit report which discusses SRC International investment also had fewer pages.

The court hears that Chapter 3 in the original report had a total of 21 pages which contained 11 topics, while in the amended report, Chapter 3 only had 10 pages with seven topics.

12.56pm: During cross-examination, Shafee asks Ambrin what choice the witness had if someone pushed the latter to criminality, such as during the February 2016 meeting which resulted in the dropping of four controversial issues from the 1MDB final audit report.

Ambrin: In this particular case, there was no choice. I was under pressure to do the amendments, due to national interest (raised by other attendees at the meeting).

Ambrin adds that his conscience is clear when Shafee asks whether the changes to the report compromised Ambrin’s integrity.

1.14pm: Najib did not seem to know about 1MDB’s two conflicting financial statements, the High Court hears.

During cross-examination by Shafee, Ambrin says this was Najib’s reaction when the witness raised the matter with Najib during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office on Feb 22, 2016.

Shafee: When you briefed him (Najib), was he surprised by your disclosure (about 1MDB’s two differing financial statements)?

Ambrin: I think I was the one who informed him. He did not ask me about it. I informed him, though he seemed unaware.

Shafee: After briefing him (Najib), did you feel he was alerted about the (1MDB conflicting) financial statements?

Ambrin: I alerted him.

Shafee: Did you get the impression that he (Najib) did not know about this (1MDB two differing financial statements) prior to the briefing?

Ambrin: Yes.

Previously, the court heard that the issue of 1MDB’s two conflicting financial statements was among four issues dropped from the 1MDB final audit report following a meeting on Feb 24, 2016.

1.35pm: Ambrin defends his former junior officer Nor Salwani Muhammad for recording the audio of a meeting on 1MDB audit report on Feb 24, 2016.

Under cross-examination by Shafee, Ambrin testifies that Salwani did not ask permission to put an audio recorder in the meeting room, but he did not see it as a problem.

“To me, it is not necessary to ask permission, because the whole intention was for her to take notes for our department,” he tells the court.

“To me, it is a small matter, not a big issue,” Ambrin says when Shafee further presses him if he thinks it is alright for Salwani secretly record the meeting proceedings.

1.50pm: Ambrin agrees that the audio transcript of a meeting on Feb 24, 2016 did not seem to show any discussion about Jho Low’s involvement in a 1MDB board meeting.

The meeting was where a decision was made to drop certain controversial issues from the 1MDB final audit report, which purportedly also included Jho Low’s involvement in a 1MDB board meeting linked to the delay in the issuance of Islamic Medium-Term Notes (IMTN).

Ambrin agrees to this during cross-examination by N Sivananthan, who is lead defence counsel to Arul.

1.52pm: Ambrin agrees with Sivananthan that Arul was the “smallest person” in the Feb 24, 2016 meeting.

Ambrin is replying to Sivananthan’s question on the fact that the witness did not mention in any of his previous testimony that Arul Kanda influenced his final decision making in regards to making amendments to the 1MDB final audit report.

Sivananthan: In regard to the people who influenced you in the final decision, you did not mention Arul Kanda’s name?

Ambrin: Yes.

Sivananthan: Of all the senior officers (in the Feb 24, 2016 meeting), the smallest person in the room was my client Arul Kanda. He has no choice but to answer the question from the National Audit Department?

Ambrin: Yes.

Then like Shafee before him, Sivananthan reserves further cross-examination until the audio transcript of the Feb 24, 2016 meeting is finalised.

2pm: Shafee and Sivanathan wrap up their cross-examination on Ambrin.

Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan then starts discussing potential future dates for the trial, saying that the three more days set in January might not be sufficient to complete the case.

The court then agrees to mark nine more days in March and April next year as the tentative dates for the hearing.

The dates are March 9 to 11, April 6 to 9, and April 13 to 16.

These are on top of the dates already set for Jan 13 to 16.

Zaini also set Jan 9 for the case to be mentioned.

“That is the end of proceeding for this year. I will see you again in year 2020,” the judge says.

Earlier reports:

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