KUALA LUMPUR: The former chief executive of 1MDB, Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman, testified today that he was powerless to resist instructions from fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) as Low was the “right hand man” of Najib Razak.
However, he said that he could not blindly follow Low’s instructions as some of them were against good corporate governance practices.
“I resisted Jho Low’s orders that were suspicious, such as entering into investment projects that were not feasible,” Hazem said.
Later, however, he was persuaded by Najib’s aide, Azlin Alias, to execute Jho Low’s instructions, “which he had planned behind the scenes, without questioning them”, Hazem said.
Azlin was Najib’s principal private secretary at the time.
Hazem was testifying at Najib’s trial on 25 charges of abuse of power and money laundering over funds amounting to RM2.28 billion which were deposited in his bank accounts between February 2011 and December 2014.
Hazem said that under 1MDB’s company constitution, he was required to obey the prime minister’s orders and wishes, as stated under Article 117.
“As chief executive, I need to report my duties to the prime minister (then Najib Razak), who happens to be the company’s shareholder.
“Azlin told me whatever instructions from Jho Low came from the prime minister and that Datuk Seri Najib was aware of them,” Hazem said.
Hazem said that on one occasion, he sought the help of 1MDB chairman, Che Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, for him to meet Najib. He said he wanted to ask that funds invested abroad by 1MDB be repatriated to pay off their bridging loan.
“Tan Sri Lodin told me the PM had refused our request to bring back the funds. We were dissatisfied with the PM’s answers.
“We did not have money with us here as the funds were outside Malaysia.
“We were confused about the status of the money because Jho Low and his ‘henchmen’ were the ones managing and controlling it,” he said.
The witness pointed out that individuals such as 1MDB’s then general counsel Loo Ai Swan (Jasmine) and executive director Geh Choh Heng (Terence) were Low’s “proxies” in the company.
Loo, Geh and another management staff member, Tang Keng Chee, are being sought by the authorities over their roles in 1MDB.
Hazem also said he scolded Low, demanding to know the status of 1MDB funds outside of Malaysia, but the Penang-born businessman only told him the “funds were Umno’s and it cannot be touched”.
He added that he sent a personal email to his colleague Azmi Tahir, then chief financial officer, expressing his desire to resign after six months being in charge of 1MDB.
Hazem had succeeded Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi as CEO in March 2013.
“I told Azmi that the projects we had taken up were unrealistic as ‘everything here is done in haste’ and I think that ‘we fell into the biggest trap in Malaysia’s corporate history’,” Hazem said, in reading excepts from his email to Azmi.
To questions from deputy public prosecutor Mohamad Mustaffa P Kunyalam on Low’s instruction to delete his email instructions to the witness, Hazem said he did not do so as he wanted to keep them as evidence.
Shahrol had testified previously that he had deleted most of Low’s emails as the businessman said the information may threaten Najib’s political position.
The hearing continues before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah tomorrow.