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Najib ordered sensitive issues involving Jho Low to be left out from 1MDB audit report, ex-aide tells court

Shukry Salleh says Najib gave him the instruction two days after a meeting on the audit report, on Feb 24, 2016.

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Former prime minister Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur court complex today. Photo: Bernama
Former prime minister Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur court complex today. Photo: Bernama

Najib Razak’s former principal private secretary Shukry Salleh told the High Court in Kuala Lumpur today that the former prime minister had instructed him not to include sensitive issues involving fugitive businessmen Low Taek Jho or Jho Low in the 1MDB audit report.

Shukry, 67, said Najib gave him the instruction two days after a meeting on the audit report at the office of then chief secretary to the government (KSN) Ali Hamsa, on Feb 24, 2016.

“On Feb 26, 2016, I met Najib in his office and Najib instructed me more or less like this, ‘Shukry, you tell the audit that sensitive and irrelevant issues, including on Jho Low (involvement). If the opposition finds out, it will be an issue’.”

Shukry said this when reading out from his witness statement at the trial of Najib and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy for allegedly tampering with the final audit report.

According to the 11th prosecution witness, after that, he contacted Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad, who was then a director at the National Audit Department (NAD), and conveyed Najib’s instructions.

Shukry said that on Feb 23, 2016, he and Ambrin Buang, who was the auditor-general at the time, met Ali at his office, and were told that a meeting would be held the next day (Feb 24, 2016) and that representatives from NAD, 1MDB, the Treasury and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had been invited to attend.

“During the meeting, I informed Ali and Ambrin that the 1MDB issue had become a crisis that needed to be addressed immediately. What I meant by ‘crisis that needs to be addressed immediately’ was that the 1MDB issue had become the focus of all parties, at home and abroad.

“Before meeting Ambrin, Ali and I had met with Arul Kanda separately where Arul Kanda explained to Ali about 1MDB’s financial issues,” he said during examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Nadia Zulkefli.

Shukry, whose contract as Najib’s principal private secretary ended on Sept 30, 2016, said he had attended a meeting chaired by Ali in his office on Feb 24, 2016 and his attendance at the meeting was approved by Najib.

“The meeting was also attended by Arul Kanda; NAD representatives Ambrin and Saadatul Nafisah; representatives from the Treasury Mohmad Isa Hussain and Asri [email protected] Hamidon, Dzulkifli Ahmad from the AGC; and senior private secretary to Ali, Norazman Ayob.

“At the meeting, the KSN (Ali) explained that the purpose of the meeting was to coordinate some matters that Najib was not satisfied with in the 1MDB audit report,” he said, adding that the meeting also discussed the two versions of the 1MDB’s financial statements for 2014.

Shukry said he told the meeting that it would affect outsiders’ confidence if a company like 1MDB could be manipulated, and spoke of its implications on investments.

“During the meeting, KSN instructed Isa to lodge a police report on the two versions of 1MDB’s financial statements for 2014 so that an investigation could be carried out and from the outcome of the meeting, Ambrin agreed to remove the matter from the 1MDB audit report,” he said, adding that the meeting had agreed to drop the matter after getting the opinion of the AGC’s representative.

According to Shukry, he also raised the issue on the postponement of the issuance of the Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN) and on Najib not informing the Cabinet of the matter.

IMTN involves the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), which was renamed 1MDB in 2009.

Meanwhile, when questioned by senior public prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram about whether he knew of the connection between Najib and 1MDB, Shukry replied: “I only knew that he was the chairman.”

After Shukry finished reading his witness statement, an audio recording of the meeting on the 1MDB audit report on Feb 24, 2016, lasting two hours and 45 minutes, was played again in court and Shukry confirmed having attended the meeting.

Najib, 68, is charged with using his position to order amendments to the final 1MDB audit report before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee to avoid any action being taken against him, while Arul Kanda, 45, is charged with abetting Najib in making the amendments to the report to protect Najib from being subjected to action.

They were both charged under Section 23 (1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, which provides for a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

The trial before judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan continues on Oct 20.