Gopal Sri Ram today described the 1MDB board of directors as “a bunch of toothless tigers”, saying they had failed to protect and advise then prime minister Najib Razak in company matters.
The former Federal Court judge who is leading the prosecution team in the trial of Najib on four corruption charges involving RM2.3 billion in 1MDB funds and 21 money laundering charges involving the same amount, suggested this when querying former 1MDB non-executive director Ismee Ismail, 57.
Sri Ram: I put to you that the board of directors of 1MDB were actually a bunch of toothless tigers and you failed to protect and advise the prime minister. What is your position to that situation?
Ismee: With all the new information and revelations, how would I have acted differently? I would have turned down the position. Sorry to say this.
The 13th prosecution witness said he felt like the board was being used to make all of the initiatives and transactions in 1MDB appear legitimate to the extent that misleading information was given or, worse, no information was provided at all and concealed from the board.
As a member of the board, it had always been in the interest of him and his other former colleagues to ensure that the company’s interest was protected, Ismee said.
“Each one of us (board members) had different perspectives of what was happening in 1MDB, including our own perception of the role of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low in 1MDB.
“We also spoke about Jho Low in private and from my perspective, he was managing the relationship between two parties. I saw vividly that he managed the relationship between us (1MDB) and Abu Dhabi. I could see that he had a good relationship with Arab (countries),” he said.
As a board member, Ismee said he had not questioned the transactions made by 1MDB, but that the board would definitely question the management on the economics and viability of transactions executed.
However, Ismee said they only knew about the affairs of 1MDB on a need-to-know basis.
“In 2015, when we were the directors, we only knew this much. We found out more information during the investigation and we discovered even more throughout the course of the case.
“After all this, I don’t think we as board members could have acted differently to protect the interest of 1MDB,” he said.
The witness also said he did not receive any part of the money that was taken out from 1MDB.
Earlier, when reading out his 111-page witness statement, Ismee said he submitted his resignation letter in 2015 as he was concerned and did not want to be part of the company’s future decisions.
The resignation letter submitted in June 2015, however, was not accepted by Najib’s former special officer, Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, who instead requested that his decision be put on hold as one of the options being considered then was to change the entire board.
“However, in 2016, all of us on the board and in the 1MDB management resigned as a new board of directors and management were appointed,” he said.
Najib, 68, is facing four charges, of using his position to obtain bribes amounting to RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.
The trial before justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues on Dec 13.