Perhaps I was wrong to assume Najib wanted to continue with RM5b bond, says ex-1MDB director


KUALA LUMPUR — Former non-executive director of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) told the High Court today that he might be wrong in assuming that Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wanted with the issuance of Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN) bond by the Terengganu Investment Bhd (TIA) in 2009 to proceed.

Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, 58, said this as he agreed to the lawyer Datuk Hariharan Tara Singh’s suggestion that he had a wrong impression about Najib following the letter from the Istana Terengganu to TIA which stated that the former prime minister had agreed to withhold the issuance of the RM5 billion bond.

TIA was established on Feb 27, 2009, as Terengganu’s state investment arm and was renamed 1MDB on Sep 25, 2009.

Previously, Ismee in his witness statement testified that he met Najib and former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi at Najib’s residence in Jalan Duta after his audience with the Sultan of Terengganu Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin at Istana Terengganu on May 22, 2009.

“During the meeting, the Sultan expressed his concern and wanted the bond issuance to be withheld. 

“Shahrol Azral and I went to see Datuk Seri Najib to inform him about the Sultan’s directive and it was then I assumed, based on his reaction and the tone of his voice, he wanted the issuance of the bonds to proceed,” he said.

Hariharan: Based on the letter from the palace, do you agree that you have the wrong impression earlier about Datuk Seri Najib and that what you said in your witness statement was merely your assumption?

Ismee: Yes, perhaps my assumption was wrong.

Earlier, Hariharan questioned the witness whether he agreed with the findings from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) specifically the parts referring to Shahrol Azral’s action to follow through with the IMTN issuance, despite him signing the resolution to withhold it.

Hariharan: According to the PAC findings, do you agree that Shahrol Azral has violated the directive when he went against the decision to withhold the bond?

At this juncture, Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohamad Mustaffa P Kunyalam objected, saying the report was published and this matter could be made in submissions, to which Justice Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah agreed. 

Hariharan then moved on to the conversation Ismee had with Shahrol Azral after signing the resolution not to follow through with the IMTN issuance.

Hariharan: You left the palace after signing the resolution to not follow through with the IMTN issuance. In your witness statement, you said you were instructed by Shahrol Azral to solve the issue. How did you to do that?

Ismee: I don’t know, maybe bring the matter up with the prime minister.

Hariharan: You expected Shahrol Azral to meet the PM because the federal government gave the guarantee. Is that the only reason to meet the guarantor? 

Ismee: Yes. 

Najib, 68, is facing 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 Justice Sequerah continues on March 21.