Najib didn’t reply to my sms regarding US$700 million diversion – witness

By BERNAMA / FILE PIX

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 — The High Court today was told that former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak did not reply to a text message informing him about a US$700 million diversion which was originally intended for a joint venture between 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and Petrosaudi International (PSI).

Former 1MDB chairman Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh, 67, said he had sent Najib an SMS from his BlackBerry phone after the 1MDB board of directors (BOD) meeting on Sept 26, 2009 to notify him about the US$700 million diversion to a purported PSI affiliate company called Good Star Ltd, but he never got a reply from the former premier.

“This was not a normal response or reaction from Datuk Seri Najib. In the past, whatever I sent to him, he would reply,” said Mohd Bakke under examination-in-chief by lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram at the trial of Najib and former 1MDB chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy on alleged tampering of the 1MDB final audit report.

Good Star was later revealed to be a company linked to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.

Mohd Bakke said the board was furious when the point regarding the fund’s diversion was raised during the 1MDB BOD meeting on Sept 26, 2009, as it was not in accordance with the direction given by the BOD.

“At the time, we didn’t know it was Good Star. This was not the instruction given to 1MDB management and we (BOD) questioned how the diversion could have happened in the first place.

“Shahrol (former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi) said the management was advised by external lawyers to do this (diversion) for commercial reasons,” he said.

The 13th prosecution witness said following this action by the 1MDB management, he decided to quit from the strategic investment company and tendered his resignation on Oct 19, 2009.

“When I found out the management did not follow the BOD’s direction, I was suspicious because the 1MDB management did something that was not in line with good governance.

“Straightaway I looked at the management with suspicion. I wasn’t happy, I was angry. I told my fellow board members that we should all resign. We (BOD) even told the management to get the US$700 million back and take it through the proper process,” he said.

Questioned by Sri Ram, Mohd Bakke confirmed he was interviewed by the auditor-general in June 2015, where he explained about the chronology of events from the day he was appointed as one of the directors in Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA, which later became 1MDB) and his reappointment as 1MDB board member.

“I also gave to the National Audit Department (NAD) my set of minutes of meeting (MOM) copy for two 1MDB meetings I attended on Sept 26 and Oct 3, 2009,” he said.

Mohd Bakke also confirmed the MOM he handed to NAD showed that Jho Low was present during the 1MDB BOD meeting on Sept 26.

The hearing resumes before Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan on March 7 next year.

Najib, 68, is charged with using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee to avoid any action being taken against him, while Arul Kanda is charged with abetting Najib in making the amendments to the report, to protect Najib from being subjected to action.

The offence was allegedly committed at the Prime Minister’s Department Complex, Central Government Administrative Centre, Federal Territory of Putrajaya between Feb 22 and 26, 2016.

Both of them were charged under Section 23 (1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, which provides for a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.