KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 17): Datuk Seri Najib Razak's defence team, led by senior counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (pictured), spent 45 minutes today at the High Court here trying to discredit the audio recording made by National Audit Department's (NAD) Nor Salwani Muhammad.

The recording captures a meeting on Feb 24, 2016, chaired by the then-Chief Secretary of the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa, which discusses omissions and changes to the final 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report before it was handed to the Public Accounts Committee the next month.

According to earlier testimonials, the meeting — which lasted about two hours and forty minutes — was held on Najib's orders, and the audio clip of the meeting was used as evidence in court.

Shafee tried to discredit the recording made by Nor Salwani, who is now the audit director (governance) at NAD, through former audit director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad, as the senior lawyer took almost an hour of yesterday's proceedings to focus on the circumstances in which the recording was made.

Saadatul Nafisah told the court there were seven people from the auditing team, excluding then-Auditor General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, and they arrived half an hour early for the 2:30pm meeting at Ali's office.

"Ambrin did not explain to us to the nature of the meeting and hence, the whole auditing team who did the 1MDB audit report came with all the documents to defend our findings," she explained.

She explained that they took their seats in the meeting room at Ali's office, with Nor Salwani sitting immediately on her left.

"When Ali came in, he said there is no need for many people from NAD to remain in the meeting room and asked the other officers to leave. Ambrin and I were the only ones who stayed behind.

"I did not take many notes in the meeting as I responded to the questions asked by those present in the meeting. Normally, there would be a person from NAD taking minutes and doing the recording of the meeting and it is normally Nor Salwani's task," replied Saadatul Nafisah.

Shafee then asked Saadatul Nafisah where she placed her pencil case, and she replied that she placed it on the table to the left of her, as she was left-handed.

Nor Salwani, who was the fourth prosecution witness, had previously testified that she slipped the recorder into Saadatul Nafisah's pencil case without the latter's knowledge, and left the meeting room quickly as her team was ushered out.

Saadatul told Shafee that she returned the pencil case to her workplace after retiring in 2017.

Testing Nor Salwani's credibility

Shafee then asked her what brand of smartphone did she and Ambrin use, to which she replied she was using an iPhone 4, which she kept in her handbag that was placed on the floor at her seat.

"I left it on silent mode during the meeting. I do not use any android phone. I do not know what brand of handphone that Ambrin uses," she said.

The defence counsel asked this as there were moments in the clip where the sound of a phone buzzing could be heard, interrupting the recording on playback.

He then asked whether the other members of the auditing team had complained to her that they were rudely told to leave the meeting room as claimed by Nor Salwani. However, the witness replied that Ali was his usual self when he asked the others to leave.

Shafee then tried to test Nor Salwani's credibility by asking Saadatul Nafisah when her ex-colleague began recording the meeting.

She initially replied that it only started after the others had left the room, but then retracted her testimony, saying she was not sure.

This is because the recording was made several minutes before Ali entered the room, and his voice asking the audit team members to leave could be heard in the recording.

Saadatul Nafisah also told the court that she only knew the meeting was recorded after reuniting with her team back at the office.

It is unclear when the trial will continue as the presiding judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan has yet to fix a date for case management, given that the 1MDB-Tanore trial before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah is expected to continue from February to October.

"I will have to meet Justice Sequerah first to discuss whether he is willing to relinquish some dates to accommodate for this trial," Justice Zaini said.

Najib is facing an abuse of power charge under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, for ordering the alteration of the audit report to prevent action from being taken against him.

Arul Kanda Kandasamy, who is jointly tried with Najib, faces a charge of abetting the former premier.

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