Former second finance minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday that Najib Razak had told him not to interfere in 1MDB matters when he advised the ex-leader on the risks of 1MDB’s plan to invest in a joint venture with PetroSaudi International Ltd.
Reading from his witness statement at Najib’s trial for the misappropriation of RM2.3 billion in 1MDB funds, Husni said he had voiced his concerns at the end of 2009 after learning from a finance ministry official that 1MDB had made a joint venture investment with the oil services and production company.
“I went to see Najib in his office and told him that 1MDB should not enter a joint venture with PetroSaudi as the company was still in the process of oil exploration… and if oil was not discovered, then the investment would be ‘burnt’.
“I also told the PM (Najib) that 1MDB had no experience in the oil exploration field and that it should be left to Petronas. But since he responded in that way, I kept quiet from then on,” he said.
The 20th prosecution witness confirmed that the meeting took place only between the two of them at Najib’s office. Since then, he said, he was not directly involved in any decision or informed of 1MDB’s investments.
Earlier, Husni testified that in mid-2009, he offered advice on the risks of setting up 1MDB when he learnt that the government had decided to take over the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) and rename it as 1MDB.
“I met Najib in his office to tell him that 1MDB should not be established without a feasibility study. The purpose of the feasibility study is to make a practical assessment of a project proposal as well as the risks in terms of business and finance.
“This study was very important to ensure that 1MDB’s investment would bring profit to the government. However, when I told the PM about the risk, he simply replied: ‘I will go ahead.’ So I did not say anything else,” Husni said.
Husni also said that in early 2015, Najib had called him to resolve problems faced by 1MDB which was said to be heavily laden with debts, but that he did not agree as he had never been involved in the company’s affairs.
“When Najib continued to urge me to carry out the task, I met with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Wahid Omar so that he could take over (the task) but Wahid also did not agree to it,” he said.
Husni said that he, together with his senior private secretary Imran Yasin Mohd Yusof, drew up a plan called the “1MDB Rationalisation Plan”. Among his main tasks in the plan was to obtain information related to 1MDB, its financial position, assets, debts and matters related to company investments.
“Our role was only to draw up a plan. Implementation was under the responsibility of 1MDB’s management and I was not directly involved.
“Based on the financial statements that I obtained, I found that 1MDB’s debt on May 20, 2015 was RM48.571 billion while the company’s assets stood at RM49.895 billion,” he said.
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 Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues today.