Arul Kanda: I was never told to manipulate truth about 1MDB

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Arul Kanda Kandasamy today confirmed that he had not been asked to manipulate the truth about 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Firdaus Latif

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

Arul Kanda was formerly 1MDB CEO from January 2015 to June 2018.

Arul Kanda had previously said that Najib had asked him to attend a February 24, 2016 meeting with the auditor-general and other government officials, with this meeting later resulting in changes to the 1MDB audit report before it could be given to parliamentary watchdog Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Asked today by Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah if whatever actions he had done in the past in relation to the 1MDB audit was done with the interest of “delivering the truth”, Arul Kanda said “yes”.

Shafee asked, “Were you ever asked to manipulate the truth?”

Arul Kanda shook his head as he said, “No”.

Asked if he had backed up every statement or request that he made for changes to the auditor-general’s 1MDB audit report with supporting documents, Arul Kanda confirmed this.

Arul Kanda replied: “Yes, that was the agreement at the meeting on February 24, for any amendments or changes that were requested, we needed to back it up with documents.”

He said this was why he had sent multiple emails to former National Audit Department (NAD) director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad, where he referred to specific points in the 1MDB audit report and referred to attached documents in the email as clarification on those points.

Asked by Shafee if he had made “any misleading statements” on 1MDB when requesting for changes by the NAD to the 1MDB audit report, Arul Kanda said, “No”.

Shown NAD notes that listed 65 items from the 1MDB audit report as having been discussed between 1MDB and NAD and other officials on February 24 and February 25, 2016, Arul Kanda pointed out that the discussions were not just on the four amendments that were ultimately made to the 1MDB audit report, and which led to this trial.

Arul Kanda confirmed that the NAD did not accept 1MDB’s suggestions for changes on all 65 items discussed and said the NAD had made its own decision on which proposed amendments would be made and which would not be accepted.

Asked how NAD decided which amendments to carry out, Arul Kanda said: “Partly based on documents that we had given them, partly also based on their own discretion, whether to accept or not to accept. I was not part of their decision-making process but ultimately it was their call what to accept, what not to accept.”

Shafee suggested that the NAD had before the February 24, 2016 meeting thought the 1MDB audit report was ready, but further suggested that the NAD had allegedly realised some amendments were needed for the report to be more complete when they heard from Arul Kanda and were given more documents.

Arul Kanda agreed and said the NAD was only ready to consider 1MDB’s request for amendments to the 1MDB audit report if they gave documents to back up the requests.

“Yes, although it was conditional on us providing the supporting documents. It was not a blanket agreement to change. They said if there were amendments to be made, they could consider it if we could provide supporting documents.”

Arul Kanda had previously said he was asked to go to Najib’s then special officer Datuk Seri Ahmad Farid Ridzuan’s house about one or two weeks before he was supposed to testify at PAC’s inquiry on 1MDB. He had testified on December 1, 2015 and December 18, 2015 to the PAC.

In the first meeting at Ahmad Farid’s house, Ahmad Farid and then PAC chairman Datuk Seri Hasan Arifin were present. Arul Kanda agreed with Shafee’s suggestion that those present at the meeting had wanted him to share information about 1MDB and what he would be saying at the PAC inquiry.

Shafee: Did anyone — either the chairman or Datuk Farid or anybody else that attended that meeting in the house of Datuk Farid — did anyone in anyway tell you, ‘You know Arul, it’s better to say like this, rather than like this’? Did anyone suggest to you like that?

Arul Kanda smiled and replied, “No, Yang Arif”.

Asked why he thought they wanted to find out about 1MDB information from him, Arul Kanda said: “My understanding was that they felt the issues surrounding 1MDB was quite complex and they needed additional information to better understand what the items were and what were the issues presented to PAC.”

While Shafee suggested that those present at the meeting wanted to get a “head start” so they would understand the issues when the PAC inquiry session starts, Arul Kanda noted that the PAC had already started its inquiry on 1MDB “much earlier” but later agreed that it could be that they wanted a head start as he noted what he was presenting were clarifications.

“The slides I used to explain were the same slides I presented in the PAC,” he said of the slides he had shown at Ahmad Farid’s house.

Later when asked by lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, Arul Kanda again confirmed that the PAC inquiry on 1MDB was “already in progress” by the time he attended the meeting at Ahmad Farid’s house. Sri Ram had suggested that other witnesses had already testified to the PAC on 1MDB before it was Arul Kanda’s turn to do so.

Sri Ram: To your mind, could these questions, which were put to you at Farid Ridzuan’s house, be put to you at the PAC itself?

Arul Kanda: Yes.

In this corruption 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.

Najib was alleged of having abused his power by instructing for amendments to the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB before it was presented to the parliamentary watchdog Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The amendments were alleged to have been made after the report was already finalised and ready to be given to the PAC.

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