Datukship was not a reward for blowing the whistle, says witness

KUALA LUMPUR: A key witness in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit tampering trial has denied receiving a Datukship for her whistleblowing act of recording a closed-door meeting involving alleged amendments to the controversial audit report.

National Audit Department (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 title Datuk, due to her 30 years of service at the Federal Territories Ministry.

The witness said this during cross-examination by lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who represents Datuk Seri Najib Razak, during the trial yesterday.

Nor Salwani disagreed with Shafee’s suggestion that her Datukship was due to her keeping evidence in the case, saying that her nomination for the award 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, Nor 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 to discuss 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 the (former) Auditor General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang that you wanted to record the conversation? Did you make an application?

Nor Salwani: I tried to speak to (retired audit director) Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad from the NAD but she was occupied with speaking to Ambrin. In a haste, I placed the recorder. I never had the intention to hide or do something unethical.

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

In the report, it was mentioned that Nor Salwani had discreetly saved a copy from the original 60 copies of the 1MDB audit report, when the rest were eventually destroyed.

The same report quoted the then Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad as saying the award was a testament that the ministry sternly rejected all sorts of bribery and abuse of power from any party.

The court also allowed for the trial to be vacated from today 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 fixed Aug 11 for the hearing to resume.

Najib is accused of using his position to order amendments to the final 1MDB 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 Kandasamu was charged with abetting Najib at the same place and time.

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