In Najib’s 1MDB trial, ex-CEO Mohd Hazem testified he would recommend ex-1MDB CFO Azmi to Jho Low to be the next CEO
by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by BLOOMBERG
FUGITIVE businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low (picture), has the authority to determine who will be the CEO at 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) despite not holding any official position in the company, the court has heard.
In Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial, former 1MDB CEO Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman testified that he would recommend then 1MDB CFO Azmi Tahir to Jho Low to be the next CEO after him, if the former wanted to.
Under cross-examination by defence counsel Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohamad, Mohd Hazem referred to an email which he sent to Azmi, in which he expressed his intention to resign from the company and proposed Azmi to succeed him as the CEO.
Wan Aizuddin: So, are you saying Jho Low is also in a position to decide who will be the CEO and members of the management?
Mohd Hazem: Yes.
Wan Aizuddin: So, he has the authority?
Mohd Hazem: Yes.
Earlier, the 10th prosecution witness told the court that the 1MDB board would officially take Jho Low’s instructions as coming from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) instead of the man himself.
He said this was because Jho Low never existed in the eyes of the board and it was the culture or modus operandi of the company that Jho Low’s name was never to be mentioned in official records.
Mohd Hazem: Everyone is aware and understood that on record, his name was never to be mentioned. It was well understood.
Wan Aizuddin: No one ever told you that they can mention his name? When did Jho Low tell you this?
Mohd Hazem: At the beginning, this was the modus operandi. From the beginning, before I joined, he told me this.
Wan Aizuddin: Were you puzzled that he told you not to mention his name when he’s giving you instructions?
Mohd Hazem: This is not any company, this is a government company.
Mohd Hazem was the second CEO at 1MDB after Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, who helmed the company from 2009 to 2013.
He took over from Shahrol Azral until he resigned in 2015 and was succeeded by Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
During his tenure, Mohd Hazem mostly oversaw deals on the Tun Razak Exchange development (formerly known as Kuala Lumpur International Financial District) that involved a US$3 billion (RM12.57 billion) bond raised for a joint venture between 1MDB and Aabar Investments PJS Ltd, a fraud entity created by Jho Low in the British Virgin Islands.
Najib is facing 25 charges in the 1MDB trial — four counts of power abuse to obtain gratifications totalling RM2.3 billion linked to 1MDB and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same proceeds.
The former PM faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment if convicted.