Malaysia says former PM Najib’s office ordered changes to 1MDB audit report

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is facing multiple charges of graft, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust related to 1MDB. (AFP)
Updated 25 November 2018
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Malaysia says former PM Najib’s office ordered changes to 1MDB audit report

  • Najib has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and has consistently denied wrongdoing
  • Malaysia’s auditor-general Madinah Mohamad said “several” findings from the audit report submitted in February 2016 to Najib were “dropped and amended”

KUALA LUMPUR: The office of former Malaysian premier Najib Razak ordered changes to a 2016 audit report of scandal-plagued state fund 1MDB, including removing mention of financier Low Taek Jho’s presence at a board meeting, authorities said.
Financier Low has been described as a central player in the alleged corruption and money laundering at 1MDB, according to Malaysian and US authorities investigating the fund. He had no official role in 1MDB, but advised on investments and negotiated deals for the fund, the authorities have said.
Najib, ousted in a May 9 election by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, is facing multiple charges of graft, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust related to 1MDB. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and has consistently denied wrongdoing.
In a statement dated Saturday, Malaysia’s auditor-general Madinah Mohamad said “several” findings from the audit report submitted in February 2016 to Najib were “dropped and amended.”
The audit report before the amendments has been submitted to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the police for further investigation, Madinah said.
“The former prime minister ordered the deletion of the paragraph containing two versions of the 1MDB financial statement for the year ended 2014 and directed an investigation to be carried out by the enforcement authorities,” she said in a statement.
Najib’s private secretary also “directed the former auditor general to drop the paragraph on the presence of Low Taek Jho in one of the 1MDB Board meetings on the ground that it is sensitive and to avoid the fact being twisted around by the opposition.”
A spokesman for Najib did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In an interview with Reuters in June, Najib said he should not be blamed for the scandal at 1MDB and that he knew nothing about money from the state fund appearing in his personal account.
Low, who is at large, has previously maintained his innocence.
Malaysia, under the premiership of Najib, had classified the audit report in 2016 under the Officials Secrets Act when the fund’s financial troubles were being investigated. The Mahathir government in May declassified the report that showed senior officials at 1MDB withheld information from its board.


Poor air quality: Malaysia tells citizens to stay indoors

Updated 21 min 8 sec ago

Poor air quality: Malaysia tells citizens to stay indoors

  • Nearly 1,500 schools closed as haze continues to plague the country

KUALA LUMPUR: As Malaysia’s haze problem worsened on Wednesday, some areas of the country recorded readings above 200 on the Air Pollution Index (API), which officials told Arab News is considered “very unhealthy.”

More than a million primary and high-school students stayed home as 1,484 schools remained closed in seven states, including Selangor and Sarawak — the two worst-affected states. 

In some areas of Sarawak, API readings were above 300, which is considered hazardous to the environment and human health. 

The Ministry of Education advised all higher education institutions in the haze-affected states to postpone their classes, while some companies and institutions, including the Ministry of Youth and Sports, asked employees to work from home.

Responding to the worsening situation, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhamad stressed that Malaysia must deal with the haze issue on its own.

“We will have to find ways to deal with the haze, through cloud seeding, asking people to stay at home, and school closures,” he said at a press conference in Putrajaya. 

The Malaysia government also stressed that it will take legal action against Malaysian companies that own estates and plantations outside Malaysia which have contributed to the problem. 

“We will ask them to put out the fires (they have set). If they are unwilling to take action, we may have to pass a law that holds them responsible,” the 93-year-old Malaysian leader said.

The ASEAN Specialized Meteorological Centre reported that forest fires in Indonesia’s Sumatera and Kalimantan regions have intensified, leading to an increase in the haze across the Southeast Asian region. Those fires, coupled with the dry weather conditions in certain areas, mean the air quality is expected to continue to deteriorate. The general public have been advised to stay indoors and to wear facemasks if they do have to go outside.

Benjamin Ong, a Kuala Lumpur-based environmentalist told Arab News that many Malaysians are concerned about the ongoing and worsening issue of haze, which has become an annual occurrence despite efforts by Malaysia, Indonesia and other Southeast-Asian governments to tackle the transboundary problem. 

“Outdoor activities are badly affected, including environmental activities like hiking and outdoor classes for kids,” Ong said, adding that many families are especially concerned about the pollution’s impact on their children’s education.

“The haze has been hanging around for at least 20 years, but the root causes have never been systematically tackled,” he added. “Distribution of masks, school closures and cloud seeding are only treating the symptoms, so to speak, and do not in any way make society more resilient to haze if and when it returns.”