In court, Ali Hamsa calls taping of 1MDB audit meeting ‘unethical’ as no permission granted

Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court June 16, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court June 16, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 — Former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa has deemed as unethical the actions of National Audit Department (NAD) personnel who recorded a meeting with major stakeholders that led to changes in 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) final audit report, the High Court heard today.

The meeting in question took place on February 24, 2016, at Ali’s office in his official capacity then, and was attended by several senior government officials, including then auditor-general (A-G) Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, along with his staff, as well as 1MDB’s then chief executive Arul Kanda Kandasamy.

Ali is testifying as the fourth prosecution witness in former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Arul Kanda’s joint trial for allegedly tampering with 1MDB’s 2016 audit report.  

Under cross-examination by Najib’s lawyer, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah who had quizzed him on the recording, Ali said he was surprised that someone had recorded the meeting without anyone’s knowledge and called the action as simply unethical.

Shafee: Did you organise the meeting to be recorded so that you can review it or for NAD to review it?

Ali: I never asked for any recording.

Shafee: Were you aware of any recording?

Ali: I was not aware.

Shafee: Did anyone from NAD ask permission to record?

Ali: No.

Shafee: if NAD asked your permission, would you have refused?

Ali: I do not know how I would have reacted to the request.

Shafee: But it is up to you whether to allow such a request?  

Ali: Yes.

Shafee: Were you surprised that one of the NAD officers recorded the meeting?

Ali: Yes.  

Shafee: Was it unethical because it was done without permission?

Ali: Yes, everyone in the room doesn’t know of the recording. At that time, it would be unethical.

During the 2016 meeting, NAD director Nor Salwani had recorded the meeting, without anyone’s knowledge.

Salwani, who is also the fifth prosecution witness, had testified previously that she had quickly done so, by leaving her recorder running in another colleague’s pencil case as she and a few others were told to leave the meeting room immediately.

Salwani had also testified before that she was rudely asked to leave the meeting room prior to its commencement.

Shafee also asked Ali whether he had asked anyone to leave the meeting in a rude or hasty manner, to which the former answered he had not, but however stated there could be a possibility that his staff then could have been acting on their own initiative.

Previously, Ali testified that Najib, after receiving the draft of the final audit report on February 22, 2016, was unhappy about its findings and had instructed him to conduct a coordination meeting between Arul Kanda and the NAD to resolve dissatisfaction over the audit report.

As a result, a meeting was held on February 24, 2016, which led to the removal of four main items from the A-G’s audit report on 1MDB, including an incident where Najib failed to inform the Cabinet over an agreement with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to delay a RM5 billion fund-raising exercise.

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