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Ex-1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex Sept 7, 2021. — Picture by SHafwan Zaidon
Ex-1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex Sept 7, 2021. — Picture by SHafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 7 — 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) had “difficulties” procuring the necessary documents government auditors needed for audit of the firm in 2015 as the police had seized these, the High Court was told today.

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Datuk N. Sivananthan suggested that former 1MDB chief executive Arul Kanda Kandasamy had informed the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on December 1, 2015 that authorities had seized documents from 1MDB and electronic devices for investigation purposes.

He made the suggestion to the prosecution’s seventh witness, former National Audit Department (NAD) director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad, who was testifying today against Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is accused of abusing his position as the then prime minister to tamper with the firm’s 2016 audit report, along with Arul Kanda who is alleged to have abetted him in the process.

According to Arul Kanda’s testimony to the PAC that Sivananthan read out, the former said the seizure of documents and computers belonging to the state investment firm by the police had made it difficult for 1MDB to assist the NAD in their request.

Arul Kanda also said there was no reason for 1MDB to withhold the documents and would have willingly served them if not for the police seizure.

Saadatul Nafisah — who had previously led NAD’s special audit team for 1MDB — then affirmed that it was indeed what Arul Kanda had informed the PAC at that time.

She also affirmed that 1MDB through Arul Kanda had requested for more time to provide the necessary documentations to which the NAD then granted the company a deadline until January 30, 2016.

However, Sivananthan disputed that the minutes of meeting on December 16, 2015 — where an exit conference took place chaired by then Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang — did not explicitly state the January 30th deadline.

In line with the standard operating procedure, an exit conference is part of the typical audit process where those being audited are given the chance to provide feedback or responses to the findings by the auditors.

To this, Saadatul Nasifah insisted that the granting of the deadline was conveyed verbally and that 1MDB was aware of it despite not being recorded in the minutes.

To another question by Sivananthan, Saadatul Nasifah also confirmed that Arul Kanda took a similar stance in a February 24, 2016 meeting as he did previously with NAD in December 2015.

In both instances, Arul Kanda informed those present that 1MDB was not able to provide the necessary documents as they were not in possession of them and not because they were unwilling.

The February 24, 2016 meeting among stakeholders had taken place at the office of the then Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa, where decisions were made to remove or change certain parts of the audit report, including omitting the existence of 1MBD’s two conflicting financial statements for 2014.

Prior to the February 24, 2016 meeting, Najib had called a meeting on February 22, 2016, with Ambrin, Ali and former principal private secretary to the prime minister Tan Sri Shukry Salleh to discuss the findings of the 1MDB final report.

The February 24 meeting eventually resulted in the removal of four items in the report including 1MDB’s two conflicting 2014 financial statements.

The special 1MDB audit team only managed to present the audit findings via the amended audit report to the PAC on March 4 and March 7, 2016, after the amended audit report was printed out on March 2, 2016.

In this trial, Najib is accused of having misused his position as prime minister and the finance minister to order for changes to the 1MDB audit report before it was finalised and presented to the PAC in order to avoid civil or criminal action, while Arul Kanda is accused of having helped Najib commit the alleged offence.

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