The 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) coordination meeting that was held on February 24, 2016, which lead to changes made to its 2016 audit report, would not have happened without Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s instructions, Tan Sri Ali Hamsa told the High Court today.
Ali, who was at that time chief secretary to the government, is prosecution witness in the 1MDB audit tampering trial in which Najib who was then both the prime minister and finance minister is the accused, alongside the sovereign investment fund’s former CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
Ali explained that he and then auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang were called to a meeting with Najib on February 22, 2016 to discuss the findings of the 2016 1MDB audit report.
Also discussed at the February 22 meeting was 1MDB two differing sets of financial statements for the year 2014, to which Najib had purportedly promised Ambrin that “he would get to the bottom of this”, the court heard today.
Under re-examination by senior deputy public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, Ali tesified that it was in the February 22 meeting that Najib had instructed for the “coordination” meeting on the audit report to take place.
Sri Ram: If the meeting on the 22nd had not taken place, would the meeting on February 24th, 2016, then take place?
Ali: It would not have taken place because when the prime minister said ‘he would get to the bottom of this’, the auditor-general was then willing to be part of the meeting [on February 24].
Earlier, under cross-examination by Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Mohd Shafee Abdullah, Ali had again stressed that no one at the “coordination’’ meeting had pressured Ambrin or National Audit Department (NAD) director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad, who was also present in the same meeting, in any way to amend the report.
“I had testified in court before that we even ended the meeting on a jovial mood. I even escorted Ambrin to the door,’’ he said.
Ambrin had previously testified that he was physically drained and upset when he left the “coordination” meeting.
He had also repeatedly testified in court that then had already finalised the report prior to the meeting.
As a result of the so-called coordination meeting and subsequent meetings, 1MDB auditors eventually agreed to remove four items from the final 1MDB audit report, including matters such as mention of 1MDB having two different and conflicting versions of financial statements for 2014 and also mention of Najib’s failure to inform Cabinet of matters linked to 1MDB’s bonds.
The special 1MDB audit team only managed to present the audit findings via the amended audit report to the PAC on March 4 and March 7, 2016, after the amended audit report was printed out on March 2, 2016.
Earlier, Ali revealed how former Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail was handed his termination letter in the wake of the 1MDB scandal in 2015.
Ali said he was the one who personally handed the letter to Gani while the latter was at a meeting.
He touched on the subject when he was questioned by Sri Ram.
Najib and Arul Kanda listened closely from the dock as Sri Ram asked Ali to explain how Gani was given his termination letter.
Sri Ram: Did you play any role in the removal of the former Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail?
Ali: I was asked to issue a cover letter and handed this personally to Gani Patail
Sri Ram: What did you tell him when you gave him the letter?
Ali: I just gave him the letter. He opened it in front of me and read it. After that, I left.
Ali had previously testified that Gani was forced to leave office after Najib lost trust in him.
He testified that this happened at a time when then deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had started kicking up a storm about 1MDB in Cabinet meetings and had also met Gani.
He also revealed that the letter of Gani’s removal was drafted by his assistant in Najib’s presence before it was taken to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to be signed.
Gani was subsequently replaced as AG and the government had then cited the latter’s ill health behind his removal.
His successor Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali later cleared Najib of any criminal wrongdoing involving 1MDB matters.
The cross-examination of Ali before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan will continue tomorrow.
Najib, 67, is now 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 Public Accounts Committee (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.
Both face up to 20 years’ jail and fine, if convicted.
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