Jho Low’s presence at 1MDB meeting erased from audit report, says auditor-general

The removal of Low Taek Jho's name was one of the changes made in the 1MDB final audit report when it was being prepared.
The removal of Low Taek Jho's name was one of the changes made in the 1MDB final audit report when it was being prepared.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho's appearance at a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) board meeting was scrubbed from a government’s audit report on the troubled state firm, the auditor-general said.

The removal was done at the request of Shukry Mohd Salleh, then-principal secretary to former prime minister Najib Razak, a week before the document was presented to a select parliamentary committee in March 2016, Dr Madinah Mohamad said in a statement on Sunday (Nov 25).

The rationale was that mentioning Mr Low, better known as Jho Low, would be sensitive, and omitting the information would prevent the opposition from using it against the government, Dr Madinah said.

Najib also ordered that paragraphs containing two versions of 1MDB’s financial statements for the year ending 2014 be removed from the document, which was prepared by Dr Madinah’s predecessor Ambrin Buang.

In its initial form, the government categorised the 1MDB audit report as a crisis, Dr Madinah said. A number of changes were made in late February 2016 following discussions between the audit team and representatives of the government and 1MDB, including then president and chief executive Arul Kanda.

The final report was presented to a select parliamentary committee in March of that year but it remained protected by the Official Secrets Act until Najib was defeated at the May 2018 general election

Days after he was sworn in as prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad ordered a renewed probe in 1MDB and declassified the document.

The report showed investigators expressed concern about anomalies in 1MDB’s accounts, and that officers on several occasions undertook investments without the full knowledge of the board and at other times acted against their advice.

Meanwhile, an editorial on Sunday (Nov 25) in Umno-owned Mingguan Malaysia - the Sunday version of Bahasa daily Utusan Malaysia - said if the allegations of tampering were true, Najib and the other civil servants had conducted the "utmost betrayal of the trust" given by voters.

"If this really happened, this is an utmost betrayal of the trust given by the people to Najib and other civil servants," Utusan said in a piece under the name Awang Selamat, the usual pen-name used by its editors to comment on issues of the day.

Najib was formerly Umno's president for nine years and still has influence in the Malay nationalist party, so the stance taken by Utusan is widely noted. 

Utusan cited the deletion of some paragraphs in the 1MDB report as alleged by auditor-general Dr Madinah, in the presence of former auditor-general Ambrin Buang and former chief secretary to the government Ali Hamsa.  

Utusan praised Dr Madinah and other officers from the National Audit Department for exposing the alleged audit tampering,