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Netizens praise government auditor who recorded 1MDB meeting, kept original audit report

PETALING JAYA (Nov 22): Malaysian netizens are hailing National Audit Department (NAD) officer Nor Salwani Muhammad as a hero after media coverage on the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit tampering trial at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday described how she recorded a meeting between 1MDB and government officials in 2016 and saved an original copy of the 1MDB audit report.

Comments on articles by The Edge, Malaysiakini, Malay Mail, New Straits Times, theSun, The Star and Bernama shared through social media called her a "hero", said her actions were "noble" and had "saved the country".

Many thanked her for "doing the right thing" and a few even called for her to be given a Datukship.

Several commenters observed that her actions would be recorded in history.

At least one commenter on the Malaysiakini website believed she might have put her life at risk, an allusion to allegations that AmBank founder Hussain Ahmad, Senior Deputy Public Prosecutor Kevin Morais, Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu and private detective Balasubramaniam Perumal were murdered in attempts to cover up the 1MDB scandal.

The 52-year-old Nor Salwani is the fifth prosecution witness in the trial of former premier Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak and ex-1MDB president and chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy over the tampering of the 1MDB audit report.

She was the coordinator of a team of 12 NAD officers, led by fellow officer Saadatul Nafisah, that prepared the original audit report. They were appointed by then auditor-general Ambrin Buang on March 9, 2015, to audit the 1MDB group of companies following an order from the cabinet.

Nor Salwani, then with the rank of deputy director of audit, was supposed to attend a coordination meeting between top 1MDB and NAD officials on Feb 24, 2016, but was shooed out at the last minute along with other lower ranking officers.

Nor Salwani hid a voice recorder in a stationery case of Saadatul who attended the meeting because Nor Salwani was supposed to minute the meeting, despite not being allowed inside. The 2 hours and 45 minutes long audio recording was tendered as evidence in the trial.

The meeting was chaired by then chief secretary to the government Ali Hamsa who had told the court on the second day of the trial that it was convened because Najib, who had seen a copy of the report before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, was displeased with the contents of the report.

Ali Hamsa said that Arul Kanda had in the meeting dismissed the matters highlighted in the report as they "were not factual and were merely hearsay". 

At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that all 60 copies of the original report would be shredded and a modified copy with four issues removed would be submitted to the PAC.

The Edge reported that Nor Salwani told the court that Ambrin looked sad and upset after leaving the meeting room.

"I accompanied him as he went to a wash room to wash his face. I followed Ambrin as he looked like he would fall, as he looked so fragile. Ambrin was also mumbling something which I could hear clearly, 'what is the purpose of the audit'," she said.

Nor Salwani said she retrieved the voice recorder and listened to the recording with her team after the meeting.

"I played back the recording and we were shocked to hear what had been decided at the meeting," she said in a New Straits Times report.

"Never before in my 21 years history of working there have we faced an event like this, where the final audit report was asked to be 'digugurkan' (dropped) and called for the report to be 'dilupuskan' (destroyed). This has never happened before and for this reason, my team and I were shocked," she said in a report by The Edge.

Nor Salwani secretly kept a copy of the original report which carried the watermark "09" (the 60 original report copies were numbered from 01 to 60). This document was also tendered as evidence in the trial.

"I kept the report to be given to the new auditor-general. With pure intention, I had surrendered the report watermarked '09' to allow the new auditor-general to get the whole picture about the audit findings," she said in a report by Malaysiakini.

She also informed the court that she had secretly kept a copy just in case it was needed as a reference.

Nor Salwani is currently the director of NAD's governance sector.

Read the original report which made her famous here.

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