Despite orders to destroy all 1MDB audit reports, government auditor saved one for new A-G

Witness Nor Salwani Muhammad is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex November 21, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Witness Nor Salwani Muhammad is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex November 21, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 ― A government auditor had saved one last copy of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) audit report's draft that was within the National Audit Department's (NAD) custody, despite being told to destroy all copies of the reports, the High Court heard today.

Nor Salwani Muhammad, 52, said this copy bearing the watermark 9 was supposed to be destroyed in 2016 to avoid “leakage” of information to the media then, and according to then Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang's orders to comply with rules as proposed by the Chief Government Security Office (CGSO) based on the Official Secrets Act.

But she had kept this copy to subsequently pass it to Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad, who on February 23, 2017, succeeded Ambrin as the auditor-general.

“The 1MDB Audit Report (watermark number 09) was kept by me to be handed over to the new Auditor-General.

“I with pure heart (dengan suci hati) had handed over the 1MDB Audit Report (watermark number 09) to enable the Auditor-General to obtain a full picture of the findings of the audit that was carried out by the audit team,” Nor Salwani told the court today, noting that she had met with Madinah on March 16, 2017 to hand over this report.

Nor Salwani, who was a member and the coordinator of the NAD's special audit team on 1MDB, said the audit team had made a presentation on the report to Madinah on March 27, 2017.

She said this last surviving copy of the report within NAD's custody that was given to Madinah was subsequently handed over to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on November 2, 2018.

The story of the 60 copies

Nor Salwani had yesterday testified that the printing of a total of 60 copies of this report was completed on February 21, 2016 and given to the CGSO for safekeeping, with each copy marked with individual watermarks bearing their serial numbers from 01 to 60 to enable ease of reference.

Nor Salwani yesterday said she had on February 22, 2016 took 10 of the 60 copies from the CGSO, with four of them labelled 07 to 10 kept in a locked cabinet at the NAD while the first six with watermark numbers 01 to 06 were given to Ambrin who distributed them to five other individuals on the same day.

She had listed the recipients of the first six copies, with 01 given to then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, 02 given to Najib's principal private secretary Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh, 03 to Ambrin, 04 to then chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa, 05 to then Attorney-General's Chambers officer Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad, 06 to 1MDB's then CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy.

Following subsequent orders to destroy the report, Nor Salwani had said the copies of 07, 08 and 10 were destroyed, and that the remaining 50 copies that were kept separately were also destroyed. (But she had preserved copy 09).

Today she explained that this last copy with the watermark 09 was also preserved for “reference” purposes if required, noting that the other copies with the watermark numbers of 01, 02, 04, 05, and 06 were not returned by the recipients to the NAD to be destroyed.

Nor Salwani is the fifth prosecution witness against both Najib and Arul Kanda, in the duo's joint trial over their alleged role in the tampering of the Auditor-General's 2016 report on 1MDB's audit.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex November 21, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex November 21, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

The High Court had this week heard former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa testifying that an “upset” Najib had instructed on February 22, 2016 for a meeting to be held to discuss the removal of content from the 1MDB audit report, with Ali then organising such a meeting on February 24, 2016.

As a result of the February 24, 2016 meeting where 1MDB's Arul Kanda and Najib's aide Shukry, as well as other officials, went through the points in the report, four main items were removed from the report.

The report that was used and discussed in that meeting is the same as the report that had survived due to Nor Salwani's action.

The meeting had resulted in orders being given for the destruction of all existing copies of the report to allegedly prevent the existence of multiple versions, as the report was to be amended to omit the four main items.

The four main items removed included the mention of the existence of two conflicting versions of 1MDB’s 2014 financial statements as well as mention of Najib’s failure to disclose to the Cabinet matters involving a RM5 billion fund-raising exercise.

In this trial, Najib was charged with abusing his position as prime minister and finance minister to order amendments in February 2016 to the auditor-general’s audit report on 1MDB before its presentation to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to avoid any civil or criminal action against him, while Arul Kanda was charged with abetting Najib in the report’s tampering.

Both their offences are punishable under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 with a maximum 20-year jail term, and a fine of at least five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000 or whichever is higher.

The trial before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan resumes next Wednesday morning.

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