KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Najib Razak was the man who ran the show at 1Malaysia Development Berhad and the real shareholder was the government, 1MDB’s former CEO told the High Court today.
Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman, 47, said that even though the 1MDB board had the power to deliberate and make decisions, it would all come down to Najib as he held the veto power.
He said this when referred to Article 117 of the Memorandum and Articles of Association (M&A) of 1MDB, by Najib’s lead counsel, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at Najib’s trial.
Najib is standing trial for 25 counts of money laundering and abuse of power charges over alleged 1MDB funds amounting to RM2.28 billion deposited in his AmBank accounts between February 2011 and December 2014.
Article 117, among others, states that any critical matters including the removal of directors, financial commitments and changes to the senior management team would require the approval of the prime minister.
The lawyer questioned the 10th prosecution witness if he had ever come across any occasion that Najib had invoked Article 117 to which the witness replied: “What do you mean by ‘invoked’?”
Shafee: As in, he used matters in Article 117 to ‘flex’ his powers.
Shafee: You can say for certain that Najib as the then PM never invoked Article 117?
Hazem: Not in that manner. As far as I understand, critical matters needed to be approved by Najib.
Shafee also questioned the witness whether he was aware that Najib was wearing many hats during the time, namely as prime minister, finance minister and the chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisers, and Article 117 specifically relates to Najib’s role as the then prime minister.
Hazem: Regardless of which “hat” Datuk Seri Najib was wearing, his approval was required.
Shafee: So, you would take it that he had the powers to decide?
Shafee: That is the wrong way to do it. I put it to you that your interpretation is wrong.
Hazem: I disagree with you.
On another issue, Hazem agreed with the counsel’s suggestion that the commission of RM801 million paid to Goldman Sachs for the acquisition of 1MDB Energy (Langat) Limited was “very high”.
The witness also agreed with Shafee’s suggestion that there were other cheaper means of raising the financing.
Shafee: What other means could have been used to raise cheaper financing?
Hazem: They could have done a competitive bidding process among the banks.
Shafee: But there was no bidding process.
Hazem: I don’t think there was. 1MDB could have used a government guarantee or raised funds with local banks instead.
Najib, 67, faces 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 Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues.