Ex-Auditor General agreed to remove Najib’s meeting with Agong from 1MDB audit report

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 21): Former Auditor General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang agreed to remove a portion of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report that mentioned a meeting between Datuk Seri Najib Razak and then-Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin.

He was heard agreeing to the amendment in an audio recording of a meeting held on Feb 24, 2016, that was also attended by other top government officials and chaired by former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa.

The recording, which is almost three hours long, was played during the examination-in-chief of Ali, who is the fourth prosecution witness in the 1MDB audit report tampering trial of Najib and the fund’s former chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy yesterday.

Ambrin, however, also said during the meeting that he wanted to state on the record that he was unhappy with some of the proposed omissions to the National Audit Department’s (NAD) audit report.

“You admit on that la (to Ali). Ok la tu. Alright, so next to 2.13 tadi we remove ya PM (Najib) met with Agong,” he was heard saying.

Ambrin was referring to Najib’s meeting with Sultan Mizan on May 27, 2009, during which the former had agreed to postpone the issuance of Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN) worth RM5 billion.

This was contained in the amended charge sheet that was read to Najib, who is charged with abusing his powers under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to order the alteration of the audit report to prevent action from being taken against him.

Najib was then also the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and chairman of the board of advisers of 1MDB, whose predecessor was Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA).

Former 1MDB president and chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy, who is jointly tried with Najib, faces a charge of abetting the ex-premier.

The missing portion, as stipulated on the charge sheet which was read to Najib on Monday, “is that the Auditor General noted Najib had an audience with Tuanku Mizan, the Sultan of Terengganu and the then-Yang di-Pertuan Agong, on May 27, 2009 where Najib agreed to postpone the RM5 billion Islamic medium-term note (IMTN) programme for further evaluation by the Special Monitoring Committee”.

However, the postponement was not relayed to the Cabinet although the Ministers had met on the same day, resulting in the IMTN being issued.

Terengganu Menteri Besar Inc — the original owner of TIA, the precursor of 1MDB — then gave a stern warning to the notes’ arranger AmBank on May 29, 2009 following the incident.

The Terengganu Sultan (the Yang di-Pertuan Agong then) had asked for a report on the unauthorised issuance of the IMTN.”

Payment to Acme Time deleted

The audio recording also made reference to AmBank's IMTN's subscription where there was a co-option agreement made with Singapore-based ACME Time Ltd.

Former NAD director of audit Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad was heard defending the inclusion of this item in the recording, although it was eventually removed.

It was reported that after the notes were flipped, some US$113.42 million was transmitted to Acme Time Ltd’s account in RBS Coutts Singapore. Another sum of US$12.55 million was also sent to Acme Time on July 13, 2009.

US investigators have determined that Acme Time’s account in RBS Coutts Singapore was controlled by fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho who is Jho Low and his associate Eric Tan Kim Loong.

There were two portions which were amended as reported on Monday.

Ali: We are here not to do investigations

Ali, who is the prosecution's fourth witness, recognised the voice in the beginning of the recording as his, and also identified other voices that includes Ambrin, Najib's then-chief private secretary Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh, former Finance Ministry deputy secretary general Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Isa Hussain and Saadatul.

Also present in that meeting was Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad, who headed the money laundering and forfeiture unit at the Attorney General’s Chambers before leading the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, and Arul Kanda.

Ali can be heard saying that the meeting was held to go through the audit report and verify certain things.

"We are here not to do investigations," Ali was heard saying, adding that a police report would be lodged later.

The meeting, as testified by the witness yesterday, was held to discuss the removal of certain portions of the 1MDB audit report as Najib had allegedly told Ali and Ambrin two days prior that he was not satisfied with the report.

Ali said some of the amendments included deleting fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho's presence at board meetings relating to TIA before the Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN) were issued.

The witness had said the National Audit Department had highlighted the presence of Low — better known as Jho Low — at these meetings because he did not have any role in the fund.

"Shukry requested for this issue to be removed in the 1MDB audit report, taking into account the sensitivity and to prevent it from being manipulated by the Opposition party," Ali testified yesterday.

Most parts of the audio recording were not audible but the prosecution had prepared a rough transcript, which senior deputy public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram described as very bad, to which Najib's lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah agreed.

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