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Najib, Arul Kanda ordered changes to 1MDB audit report to protect themselves, MACC man tells court

Haniff Lami says the report was not printed until Najib gave his permission.

3 minute read
Former prime minister Najib Razak.
Former prime minister Najib Razak.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court was today told that Najib Razak and Arul Kanda Kandasamy ordered that the final 1MDB audit report be amended to protect themselves against civil or criminal action.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigation branch senior superintendent Haniff Lami, 34, who is the investigating officer, said Najib used his power as the then prime minister and finance minister to order for the report to be amended before it was tabled to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Feb 24, 2016.

The 16th prosecution witness said based on his investigation, Arul Kanda, who is the former 1MDB CEO, had colluded with Najib in giving instructions for the audit report to be amended.

"Najib instructed the chief private secretary to the prime minister at the time, Shukry Mohd Salleh, to get the 1MDB audit report and submit a copy of the report to Arul Kanda for review.

"Najib then ordered that a meeting be held at his office in Putrajaya on Feb 22, 2016, which was also attended by former auditor-general Ambrin Buang and former chief secretary to the government, the late Ali Hamsa," he said.

Haniff said this when reading out his witness statement during examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Mohamad Mustafa P Kunyalam at the trial of Najib and Arul Kanda  for allegedly tampering with the final 1MDB audit report.

He said Najib had instructed Ali to hold a meeting with the National Audit Department to discuss matters which he (Najib) was not satisfied with in the 1MDB audit report.

"The report was not printed until Najib gave permission," he said.

The witness said following Najib’s instruction, Ali held a meeting on Feb 24, 2016, which was also attended by Arul Kanda, and as a result of the meeting, four amendments were made to the audit report.

"Amendments were made to two different versions of the 1MDB financial statements for 2014 and to an agreement by Country Groups Securities Thailand with ACME Time Limited, followed by amendments regarding the presence of fugitive businessman, Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, and the issue of postponing the issuance of Islamic medium-term notes.

"The 1MDB audit report that was tabled to PAC on March 4 and 7, 2016 was an amended report.

"My investigation shows that (the tampering of the report) was done by the first accused (Najib) and the second accused (Arul Kanda) to protect themselves from any civil or criminal action related to the operation of 1MDB," he said.

When cross-examined by lawyer Rahmat Hazlan, representing Najib, the witness said Najib and Arul Kanda were arrested on Dec 10 and 11, 2018, respectively, and their statements were recorded on the day of their arrest.

Haniff, however, disagreed with Rahmat's suggestion that the permission to accuse the former prime minister was issued by former attorney-general Tommy Thomas on Dec 10, 2018.

"The recording of Najib's conversation as a witness was taken on Dec 6, 2018, four days before his arrest," he said.

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

The offence was allegedly committed at the Prime Minister's Department Complex, Federal Government Administrative Centre, Federal Territory of Putrajaya between Feb 22 and 26, 2016.

They were charged under Section 23 (1) of the MACC Act 2009, which provides for a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

The hearing before judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan continues on Aug 18.