This week’s 1MDB trial took a turn for the telenovela-esque after a government auditor called to the stand told the court that she inadvertently made a surreptitious recording of a 2016 meeting where changes to the Auditor-General’s report were requested.
And by inadvertent, we mean that no one knew that she turned her recorder on and placed it in a pencil case before she was asked to leave the room.
Auditor Nor Salwani Muhammad, however, denied that the recording was intentionally secretive, explaining that in her role as a government auditor, she was expected to keep minutes of meetings.
However, at a Feb. 24, 2016 meeting chaired by the then-Chief Secretary to the Government Ali Hamsa, and involving senior 1MDB figures, including its former head, Arul Kanda, she was unusually asked to leave the room. Surprised that she, along with several other colleagues, would be asked to leave a meeting that concerned them, she turned on her government-issued tape recorder and placed it discreetly in the pencil case.
She explaining to the court that this was common practice, as she would often record meetings in order to later write up minutes as part of her role as the coordinator of the National Audit Department.
Just what was on the two-and-a-half-hour-plus tape? Oh, you know – just some requests to change and doctor an audit made by the government department over 1MDB, which ultimately resulted in the removal of four items former PM Najib was “dissatisfied” with having on record.
Nor Salwani characterized her removal from the meeting as unusual, and told Najib’s legal team that she had only just managed to turn the recorder on before she was forced out, leaving her no time to explain to her colleague her actions.
“I did not intend to hide, I put it in and wanted to tell her. But when asked repeatedly to leave, I did not manage to tell her that I left the recorder in her pencil box,” she said, disagreeing with Najib’s lead attorney, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who claimed she intended to secretly record the meeting.
The voice recorder was then handed over to NAD’s asset division, after the recording was downloaded to several other devices, due to concerns over “leakage.”
“At that time, I was informed that the issue of information leakage happened frequently in the public sector and has to be given attention by government agencies including the NAD,” Nor Salwani told the High Court.
One of the devices where the recording was copied was found to have been “damaged,” and later passed on to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. A second device, a pen-drive, was kept in a stapled envelope in a limited-access, locked cabinet in Nor Salwani’s office.
Having since been turned in as evidence against Najib and his cohorts, it has been used by the prosecution to show that the former PM used his position to alter the damning report.
This article, ‘Receipts’: Government auditor tells 1MDB trial she recorded officials asking to doctor report, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!