1MDB audit trial: Former A-G Ambrin reluctant to share opinion on 1MDB audit report

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Former auditor-general (A-G) Madinah Mohamad told the 1MDB audit report tampering trial of Najib Razak and Arul Kanda Kandasamy that her predecessor, Ambrin Buang, was “reluctant” to share information on his opinion about the company.

Madinah, who was previously secretary-general of the education ministry, told the High Court she had met Ambrin shortly after she took over as A-G in February 2017.

“It was a chit-chat between a former A-G and a current A-G. I wanted to understand if he had any ‘amanat’ (mandate) for me or any area of interest he could not complete and wanted me to do,” she said when cross-examined by Najib’s lawyer, Shafee Abdullah.

“One of the hottest topics (at the material time) was 1MDB and I wanted to hear about it from him.

“However, Ambrin only said ‘we can’t verify’ and asked me to ‘read it yourself’. I did not ask further and left it there.”

The court had heard that Ambrin and National Audit Department (NAD) officers had conducted their audit on 1MDB from March 9, 2015, to March 4, 2016.

They were supposed to table the findings to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Feb 24, 2016, but the meeting with PAC’s members did not take place.

Instead, Ambrin and several officers were told to attend a meeting at the office of the then chief secretary to the government Ali Hamsa on the same day.

The others present were Arul Kanda, Najib’s principal private secretary at the time Shukry Mohd Salleh, senior treasury officials and an official from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

After the meeting, four items were removed from the report. These involved two 2014 financial statements, the issuance of Islamic medium-term notes, the Islamic bonds’ secondary subscriber, and Low Taek Jho’s (Jho Low) presence at 1MDB board meetings.

Najib is standing trial for alleged abuse of power as the then prime minister and finance minister to obtain immunity from legal action and causing amendments to the finalised 1MDB audit report before it was tabled at the PAC meeting.

Arul Kanda is accused of abetting him.

Madinah said she had asked Ambrin about the 1MDB audit report as “these questions (on 1MDB) will be posed to me from time to time”.

“People said that we conducted the audit but (asked) what happened (after that).

“As an A-G, the 1MDB report was in my possession. We, who are in the government, have to tread carefully on 1MDB. It was like an understanding among us not to speak about 1MDB,” she said.

Yesterday, Madinah told the court that she was shocked when she found out that Ambrin had been ordered to amend the original 1MDB audit report.

She said her then officer, Nor Salwani Muhammad, also showed her “two versions” of the 1MDB audit report.

Shafee asked why she did not confront Najib over the audit report’s “two versions” after she had taken over as the A-G.

Shafee: The prime minister would be relevant to your tenure as A-G because you got it from him and you wanted to protect your tenure?

Madinah: No

Shafee: You went to meet Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) in 2018 because individuals (in the public service) were getting “chopped” – and you became another Salwani?

Madinah: I disagree.

Salwani deliberately misled Madinah, says Shafee

Shafee also questioned Madinah as to why she believed Salwani who told her about the “two versions” of the 1MDB audit report, as well Salwani’s claim that Ambrin had been instructed to amend the audit report.

“She (Salwani) is prone to exaggeration and deliberately misled you. You used information from her and briefed the PAC in 2018,” he said.

Madinah came to Salwani’s defence, saying that Salwani’s knowledge corroborated that of two other NAD officers, known as Nadira and Fariza.

“When Salwani briefed me on the circumstances of Ambrin being pressured, Nadira and Fariza were also there. I have no reason to doubt them,” she said.

Salwani, who is the current deputy auditor-general, had testified in the trial from 2019 to 2021.

Besides that, the court also heard testimony from Shukry.

Shukry said during a Feb 22, 2016 meeting among Najib, Ambrin and Ali, the former prime minister had said that investigations must be initiated on 1MDB’s two financial statements.

“I don’t really know how the discussion went on because I was moving in and out from the office,” he had said.

The hearing before judge Zaini Mazlan continues on April 1, when former 1MDB chairman Mohd Bakke Salleh is expected to continue his testimony. – FMT


Earlier report:

Mar 30, Former auditor general shocked copy of original 1MDB report was ordered to be destroyed