Secret audio recording dominates headlines on 1MDB report tampering trial

Nor Salwani slipping an audio recorder in a pencil case at the meeting is a bold move similar to any Hollywood
spy movie

by AZREEN HANI/ pic by ARIF KARTONO 

THE tampering of the final audit report on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) involving former Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak (picture) and Arul Kanda Kandasamy made major headlines nationwide, as a key witness confessed to possessing a secret audio recording during one of the meetings in the Kuala Lumpur High Court last week.

Observers have likened the confession by National Audit Department (NAD) director Nor Salwani Muhammad on the fourth day of trial — that she slipped an audio recorder in a pencil case which belonged to a NAD representative at the meeting, Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad, without the latter’s knowledge, to a bold move similar to any Hollywood spy movies.

Former Chief Secretary to the government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda, former Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, Najib’s then principal private secretary Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh and Finance Ministry former Deputy Secretary General Datuk Seri Mohamad Isa Hussain were believed to be in the meeting based on the recording.

She explained that she had to record the meeting as she was supposed to take down the minutes of the meeting for the NAD.

“I was there by about 8.30am, but when the meeting was just about to start, Ali’s staff suddenly told all the lower ranking officers to leave the room.

“They were very insistent and everything became very chaotic,” said Nor Salwani.

Lead defence counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah raised the issue of ethics with regards to Nor Salwani’s action, but the latter said she did not have the chance to inform her superiors on the recording.

“At that point, I was quite unsettled…and I did not have the chance to do so,” Nor Salwani said when questioned by Muhammad Shafee.

During the first day of the trial — the third for Najib, apart from SRC International Sdn Bhd and 1MDB cases — lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram had said in his opening speech that Najib took positive steps to remove passages in the report, despite it being ready to be placed before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.

The offences were allegedly committed at the PM’s Department Complex, Federal Government’s Administrative Centre and the Federal Territory of Putrajaya, between Feb 22 and 26, 2016.

Najib’s defence team also learned during the first day of trial that Arul Kanda — who is accused of abetting Najib — would be called to give evidence on the prosecutor’s behalf, pending a written application.

On the second day, Ali, who is the fourth prosecution witness, said former Deputy PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was sacked for questioning issues relating to 1MDB in the Cabinet.

“When we sit in Cabinet meetings, we see arguments going on. It was mostly one-sided, Muhyiddin made all the noises in Cabinet; we know something is coming up,” Ali told the court before Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan.

The former civil servant also told the court that former Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail was removed from his position in July the same year as Najib had lost trust in his chief legal advisor.

“Actually, when I handed over (the) letter to Abdul Gani, telling him he would be released from the AG’s post, he said he expected this to happen,” Ali testified.

The trial continues on Wednesday.