The chairman of The Edge Media Group said at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday that he had given 1MDB whistle-blower Xavier Andre Justo US$2 million as a gift for his contributions to cleaning up the country’s largest kleptocracy.
Tong Kooi Ong, 63, said he had given Justo the sum despite not getting any information or documents related to the sovereign wealth fund.
"I felt that Justo, for no whim and fancy and for nothing to gain, paid a huge price to be jailed in Thailand for an action that saved Malaysia from the world's largest kleptocracy.
"I thought he deserved to be paid and I thought the government of Malaysia should have awarded him something, but in the absence, I decided that I should help him. I gave him the sum in my office," said Tong.
The 43rd prosecution witness said this when questioned by lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at Najib Razak’s trial on the misappropriation of RM2.3 billion from 1MDB.
Tong was referring to an article published by an online portal titled "The Edge owner gives Justo RM8.2 million for helping expose the 1MDB scandal".
He said the Malaysian government ought to have compensated Justo and that in the absence of that, he had gifted the money to Justo which the latter acknowledged as a gift.
When questioned by senior deputy public prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram if the witness knew fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, Tong said he had met Jho Low twice.
"In 2014, after The Edge had just started operating, Jho Low, through a reporter contacted me, to see me. He saw me twice, by the way. Jho Low’s father Larry Low Hock Peng was a person I had known since the 1990s.
"During the first meeting, he (Jho Low) told me that Edge’s reporting (about 1MDB) was wrong. During the second meeting, he told me that he knows Najib. He said that The Edge should be 'careful' of what we wrote," said Tong.
Sri Ram: When Jho Low said (be careful of what you wrote), what was the message?
Tong: It was a threat.
When asked what he had done following the threats, Tong answered: "I just ignored it."
He also told the court that he obtained the contact number of Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown from former Damansara MP Tony Pua.
"I contacted Rewcastle-Brown. Yes, she introduced me to Justo in Singapore," he added.
Najib, 69, 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 High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues today.