Arul Kanda: 1MDB officers were ‘actively suppressing’ info to A-G

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The 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) management had actively kept information and not gave them to the National Audit Department (NAD) while the auditor-general was conducting an audit on the Finance Ministry-owned company in 2015, Arul Kanda Kandasamy said today.

Aswadi Alias NST

Former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda said this while testifying as the 15th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over the alleged tampering of the auditor-general’s 1MDB audit report.

Arul Kanda was CEO of 1MDB from January 2015 until June 2018.

Today, Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah cited the written discussion notes of a December 16, 2015 exit conference between then auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang and National Audit Department officers as well as between Arul Kanda and 1MDB officials, with the meeting being a discussion on the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB.

Shafee highlighted that the notes had recorded Ambrin as having “voiced dissatisfaction towards 1MDB on the treatment and cooperation given throughout the auditing process, such as not presenting the related documents and delaying the auditing process, as if not respecting the auditor-general’s office”.

Shafee then asked what Ambrin had meant when the meeting notes recorded him expressing dissatisfaction with how 1MDB had not given its cooperation during the audit.

Arul Kanda then explained that this was because some of 1MDB’s documents had been taken away in raids, and claimed that other officials in 1MDB had not given the information requested to the NAD.

“During the audit process, there were requests from NAD for various documents and information. Unfortunately, not all those documents were available, partly because 1MDB had been raided in July 2015 by a task force comprising MACC, police, so they had taken a lot of those documents, some of the hard drives, computer servers.

“That’s why we didn’t have ready access to information. Subsequent to that also, I now know some people in 1MDB were actively suppressing information or sharing of information as what has come out now,” he said.

Arul Kanda said he did not recall Ambrin complaining about specific individuals in 1MDB, and that the auditor-general was instead making a general comment that his team was having difficulties getting some of the documents from 1MDB.

Arul Kanda said he was not involved in the day-to-day process and said then 1MDB chief financial officer Azmi Tahir was the one leading the daily process of dealing with the NAD.

Arul Kanda said that when he later found out in February 2016 about the suppression of information by 1MDB’s team, he had then gave whatever relevant 1MDB documents he had to the NAD.

“And then they asked for certain documents at that time, which I knew was either in my possession or my company’s possession, which I then went back to them with that information which was not given by the team earlier.

Asked who was suppressing the information from the auditors, Arul Kanda only replied that the person in charge of dealing with NAD was Azmi and agreed that the latter should have made the information available.

“Yes, which I then did in February when we had a follow-up meeting with NAD. I then subsequently emailed them a whole series of documents which were actually in the company’s possession,” he said.

Asked by Shafee, Arul Kanda confirmed that the alleged suppressing of information was being done by the 1MDB management, but said he was not aware of the 1MDB board of directors being involved in such suppression.

Shafee: Was there suppression by board?

Arul Kanda: Not that I’m aware.

In this trial, Najib is accused of having as then prime minister and then finance minister abused his position between February 22, 2016 and February 26, 2016 to receive self-gratification in the form of protection from civil or criminal action over his role in the handling of 1MDB operations, by instructing for amendments to the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB – which was already finalised and ready to be presented to the parliamentary watchdog Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – before it was finally presented to the PAC.

Arul Kanda was charged with abetting Najib, but the High Court had previously allowed the prosecution’s application for him to be called as a prosecution witness.

The trial before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan is expected to resume on September 2. – MMO