Thursday, May 19, 2022

Ex-director tells court he stayed with 1MDB due to confidence in Najib’s leadership

Ismee Ismail says he believed the joint ventures between 1MDB and the Saudis would have been beneficial.

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A witness in the 1MDB trial told the Kuala Lumpur High Court today that he did not resign from the company because he had confidence in former prime minister Najib Razak’s leadership due to the sovereign wealth fund’s dealings with the Saudis.

Former 1MDB non-executive director Ismee Ismail, 58, who was also CEO of Tabung Haji (TH) from 2006 to 2016, said he thought the joint ventures between the company and the Saudis would have been beneficial.

This was despite 1MDB’s management non-compliance involving a joint venture (JV) between the company and Saudi-based oil and gas production company, PetroSaudi International Ltd (PSI) in September 2009 which had angered former 1MDB chairman Mohd Bakke Salleh.

He told the court this during re-examination by lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram, who referred him to the minutes of a Sept 26, 2009 meeting at which the board of directors had given some stipulations on the JV but the management had not followed through.

Bakke resigned shortly after that on Oct 19, 2009.

Ismee said that during his early days when he joined 1MDB in 2009, he thought it would be a good initiative for the company because in his capacity as Tabung Haji CEO, it would further enhance the relationship between the company and the Saudis.

“That time I had quite a high level of trust in the leadership, in the PM (Najib) himself, trust and loyalty, so I suppose that’s why I didn’t do ‘a Bakke’,” said Ismee, referring to the chairman leaving the company in 2009.

Meanwhile, another witness, former 1MDB chief financial officer Azmi Tahir, disagreed with the suggestion of counsel Hariharan Tara Singh that his loyalty was not to the sovereign wealth fund or its subsidiaries, but to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.

The 12th prosecution witness was questioned on the US$1.58 billion transferred out from 1MDB Global Investments Ltd (1MDB GIL) as instructed by Low.

Hariharan: Would you agree with me that the loyalty should be to 1MDB, 1MDB GIL not (an) outsider (Jho Low)?

Azmi: I believed he (Jho Low) was representing the shareholder (Najib).

The court also heard that the US$1.58 billion was used for unspecified “foreign investments”.

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 on April 18.

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