Monday, May 16, 2022

1MDB management invited Jho Low to confidential meeting in 2009, ex-director tells Najib trial

Ismee Ismail says there was no question raised or record of how the businessman came to be invited and for what purpose.

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The Kuala Lumpur High Court was today told that fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low was invited by the 1MDB management for a special board meeting held at the Royale Bintang Damansara on Sept 26, 2009.

Former 1MDB non-executive director Ismee Ismail, 58, said former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi or former executive director Casey Tang Keng Chee might have invited Low to the confidential meeting.

The 13th prosecution witness said this during cross-examination by Najib Razak’s lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah in the former prime minister’s trial for the misappropriation of RM2.3 billion in funds from 1MDB.

The meeting chaired by Mohd Bakke Salleh was also attended by Che Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, Shahrol Azral, Azlan Zainol, Casey Tang and the witness himself.

Ismee, who referred to the minutes of the meeting, agreed that there was no question raised or record of how Low was invited and for what purpose.

“I recall before the start of meeting we did talk about it, and from my perspective, his presence there was to enlighten the board on a proposed joint venture (JV) with PetroSaudi International Ltd (PSI),” he said.

Shafee however said that Low did not seem to have uttered a single word throughout the meeting, as any explanation given would have been recorded in the minutes.

When asked about the US$1 billion JV deal with PSI, Ismee said he was given the “impression” that the former prime minister wanted the board to proceed with it.

He also testified that former 1MDB chairman Bakke told the directors that he had spoken to Najib on the phone before the meeting.

“What I can recall was Bakke telling us that ‘PM wants us to do this thing (the PSI joint venture)’,” he said.

Shafee then questioned Ismee on whether Bakke had mentioned words such as “Don’t spend too much time looking at the past transactions.”

In response, Ismee said Bakke had not gone into the details of his phone call with Najib.

“Basically, Bakke said the board had to firm up a decision (on PSI),” he said.

Last week, at Najib’s 1MDB audit report tampering trial, Bakke said Najib had told him through phone to not spend too much time looking at past transactions and to just focus on the proposed JV between the sovereign wealth fund and PSI.

At today’s proceedings, Shafee suggested that what Bakke had told Ismee and others in the meeting room was “not exactly what the then prime minister had told him (Bakke)”.

“He (Bakke) might have wanted to impress the board of directors,” Shafee added.

To this, Ismee replied that only Bakke could testify about what was mentioned during his phone call with Najib.

Another witness, former 1MDB chief financial officer Azmi Tahir, said he never verified instructions received from Najib’s former principal private secretary the late Azlin Alias, which were said to have come directly from Najib himself.

Counsel Hariharan Tara Singh was referring the 12th prosecution witness to a part in his witness statement where he undertook to execute and sign several documents related to a JV between BSI bank and 1MDB Global Investments Ltd in March 2013.

However, Azmi said most of Azlin’s instructions were verbal in nature or given through text message, never written in proper documentation.

The witness also agreed to a suggestion by Hariharan that he never verified these instructions with Najib because he assumed that whatever came from Azlin was at Najib’s direction.

Najib, 68, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

The trial before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues tomorrow.

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