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1MDB probe was to recover funds, not charge Najib, says Zeti

The former Bank Negara governor says the connection was only discovered later on.

3 minute read
Former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz at the Kuala Lumpur court complex, Aug 14. Photo: Bernama
Former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz at the Kuala Lumpur court complex, Aug 14. Photo: Bernama

Former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz yesterday told the Kuala Lumpur High Court that the ultimate aim of the investigation carried out by the authorities against 1MDB was to determine if the company had committed any wrongdoing and to recover its money.

The 76-year-old witness denied that the investigation was aimed at finding a way to charge then prime minister Najib Razak and to topple the government.

She said the authorities in the special task force set up on March 6, 2015 to investigate 1MDB matters were former attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail, Zeti for BNM, former inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar and former Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed.

"That time, the investigation was on 1MDB and not on the PM (Najib). Later, we found out there was a connection," Zeti said when questioned by Najib’s lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at the former prime minister’s trial on the misappropriation of RM2.3 billion in 1MDB funds.

The 46th prosecution witness also said that she had no knowledge of whether MACC had secretly investigated Najib at the material time as it was never mentioned in task force meetings.
"If 1MDB were to default, then the implications on our country would be generational to the people currently living and their grandchildren," she said.

Shafee: I put it to you that the task force was to find a way to topple the sitting prime minister (Najib)?

Zeti: Not correct, as when the task force first met on June 9, 2015, there was no knowledge on the part of anybody from BNM that there was a connection with 1MDB over the prime minister's account. That is not correct.

Shafee: Were you aware there were drafts of charges levied against Najib, the sitting premier, when an MACC deputy public prosecutor's premises were raided?

Zeti: Not aware.

Earlier, Zeti told the court that the central bank only found that the actual sum of money that went into Najib’s account was RM3.2 billion after a joint raid by BNM and MACC on AmBank in 2015.

Shafee: I'm putting it to you, you notice the fault is in the 1MDB board, 1MDB management, BNM and AmBank, and who is in the accused dock? It is the former PM who did nothing in this transaction. I'm putting it to you, is there anything that can show that Najib was involved in this hoodwinking?

Zeti: RM3.2 billion went into his account and he expended at least RM1 billion, and this is being partly 1MDB money… that is why.

Shafee: You also say 'that time I didn't know, now I know' but when the PM (Najib) says 'that time I didn’t know, now I know', you say it is wrong. Why is there a double standard? 

To this, Zeti replied: "I disagree that it is a double standard."

Zeti also denied that the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) established on May 12, 2018, of which she was a member, was set up for the purpose of looking into 1MDB matters.

The CEP comprised former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, Zeti for BNM, former Petronas CEO Mohd Hassan Marican, tycoon Robert Kuok and economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram.
"I attended the 100 days of meeting (of the CEP) and 1MDB was not discussed. Why would they call Robert Kuok and Hassan Marican to discuss 1MDB? We were in the meeting to give advice on the Malaysian economy," she said.

Najib, 70, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes amounting to RM2.3 billion belonging to 1MDB and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

The trial before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues today.