Unethical for audit officer to record 1MDB-related discussion, Ali tells court

National Audit Department director Nor Salwani Muhammad had placed a recorder at the Feb 26, 2016 meeting to discuss the 1MDB draft report.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former chief secretary to the government Ali Hamsa told Najib Razak’s 1MDB audit tampering trial that the action of a government audit officer in “secretly” placing a recorder at a government meeting was unethical.

He said he was surprised to know, during the course of the trial, that National Audit Department director Nor Salwani Muhammad had placed a recorder at the Feb 26, 2016 meeting.

The meeting was attended by the then auditor-general Ambrin Buang, former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy, senior Treasury officials, as well as representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

Ali said no one had asked his permission to record the meeting’s discussion.

“At that time, no one in the room knew there was a recorder. It would be unethical,” he said, in responding to questions from Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.

Shafee had asked Ali as to whether he knew about the digital recorder that Salwani had placed in a pencil box at the meeting.

At an earlier hearing, Ambrin had defended Salwani’s action in placing the recorder at the meeting, noting that she had not run afoul of any law. He added that Salwani was the coordinator for the 1MDB audit exercise and had been tasked with taking notes of the meeting.

The lawyer then questioned Ali on Salwani’s claim that National Audit Department members were told to leave the meeting room by Ali’s officers in a rude manner, and if the instruction for them to leave had come from him.

“It was not a directive. The meeting room was small and I don’t know if my officers took matters into their own hands. I would have considered it and arranged the chairs for them if they had asked to come in,” Ali said.

Ali told the court that he noticed that Ambrin was “his usual self” after the meeting ended.

Ambrin had earlier testified he was upset because he had to entertain proposed amendments to the 1MDB audit report before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Before the court adjourned, ad-hoc prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram told the court they wanted to amend charges for Najib and Arul, citing a “clerical error” on the prosecution’s side.

Shafee told the court the defence would object to the amendments tomorrow when the hearing continues before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan.

Najib is facing a charge of tampering with the 1MDB final audit report while Arul is accused of abetting him.

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