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Najib attended London meeting with 1MDB board and PetroSaudi, court told

Former 1MDB non-executive director Ismee Ismail says Najib's presence showed that the joint venture between the two entities was 'right'.

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Former prime minister Najib Razak at the Kuala Lumpur court complex. Photo: Bernama
Former prime minister Najib Razak at the Kuala Lumpur court complex. Photo: Bernama

The High Court in Kuala Lumpur was told that the presence of Najib Razak at the meeting with the 1MDB board of directors members and representatives from PetroSaudi International (PSI) in London in May 2011 showed that the 1MDB-PSI joint venture was right.

Former 1MDB non-executive director Ismee Ismail, 57, said the meeting was held at the suite that Najib stayed in at the Dorchester Hotel in London during a visit by the 1MDB board to the PSI office in May 2011.

“During the visit, we (members of the board of directors) were taken to the PSI office and we had lunch together. Subsequently, we attended a meeting with Najib and two former PSI directors, Patrick Mahoney and Tarek Obaid, in the suite.

“As I recall, I also saw fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low in the suite,” he said, adding that Jho Low did not join in the meeting.

The 13th prosecution witness said this when reading his witness statement in the former prime minister’s corruption and money laundering trial involving RM2.3 billion in 1MDB funds.

Earlier, Ismee said the visit to the PSI office in London was arranged by the 1MDB management at the request of 1MDB chairman Che Lodin Wok Kamarudin because 1MDB had no information on PSI and wanted to meet the company’s representative face to face.

“The meeting was held when Najib was in London but I am not sure why it had to be held when he (Najib) was there.

“The presence of Najib at the Dorchester Hotel showed that the joint venture between 1MDB and PSI was right. The board of directors were also satisfied when they saw the PSI office and felt that the company was a legitimate one,” he said.

However, Ismee said no specific agendas were discussed and the meeting was generally about the investments between PSI and 1MDB.

The court was also told that on Sept 28, 2009, 1MDB had signed a joint venture with PSI, with 1MDB having to pay US$1 billion for its 40% shareholding in the company while PetroSaudi Holdings Cayman (a company said to be the subsidiary of PSI) only pumped in assets worth US$108 million for 60% of the equity.

Meanwhile, Ismee said he and former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi agreed to sign a resolution to discontinue the issuance of the RM5 billion Islamic medium term notes (IMTN) on May 22, 2009 because the Sultan of Terengganu, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, wanted it to be discontinued.

“After we signed the resolution, we met Najib at his residence in Jalan Langgat Duta to explain what had transpired during our meeting with Sultan Mizan at Istana Terengganu.

“After listening to our explanation, Najib’s first response at that time was ‘Why did you sign it?’ and why we (Ismee and Shahrol Azral) did not seek an extension from His Highness to give us time to think.

“I could only tell Najib that it was a directive from His Highness, so there was nothing we could do. I could see from Najib’s reaction and the tone of his voice that he wanted the issuance of the bonds to proceed,” 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 today.