Key witness in Najib's 1MDB trial denies being rewarded with Datukship for recording meeting

KUALA LUMPUR: A whistleblower in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit tampering trial has denied receiving a Datukship over her move to record a closed-door meeting involving alleged amendments to the controversial report.

National Audit Department’s (NAD) audit director Datuk Nor Salwani Muhammad, 54, told the court that she received the Panglima Mahkota Wilayah medal on Feb 1,2020, which carries the honorific title of “Datuk”, due to her 30-year service at the Federal Territories Ministry.

The witness said this in a cross-examination by lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who represented Datuk Seri Najib Razak, during the trial here on Tuesday (Feb 23).

She disagreed with Shafee’s suggestion that her Datukship was due to keeping evidence in the case and said her nomination had been sent before she testified in court.

At this point, presiding judge Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan interjected and told Shafee “don’t dwell into it”.

To another question, Salwani said she did not intend to hide or do something unethical when she placed the recorder in the pencil case during a coordination meeting discussing amendments for the 1MDB audit report on Feb 24,2016.

Shafee: Did you ask for permission or tell the (former) chief secretary Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa and (former) the Auditor General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang that you wanted to record the conversation? Did you make an application?

Salwani: I tried to speak to (retired audit director) Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad from the NAD but she was occupied in a conversation with Ambrin. In a haste, I placed the recorder. I never had the intention to hide or do something unethical.

Earlier, Salwani was asked to read a news report dated Feb 1,2020, titled “Tahniah Nor Salwani” (Congratulations Nor Salwani).

In the report, it was mentioned that Salwani had discreetly saved a copy from the original 60 copies of 1MDB audit report, while the rest were eventually destroyed.

The same report quoted the then Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad who said the award was a manifestation that his ministry sternly rejected all sorts of bribery and abuse of power from any parties.

The court also allowed for the trial to be vacated from Wednesday (Feb 24) to allow Shafee and his team to prepare for Najib’s appeal in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case at the Court of Appeal.

Justice Zaini then fixed Aug 11 for the hearing to resume.

Najib is accused of using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report before it was tabled to the Public Accounts Committee to avoid any action against him.

He allegedly committed the offence in Putrajaya between Feb 22 and 26,2016.

Former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy was charged with abetting Najib at the same place and time.

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