KUALA LUMPUR : Datuk Seri Najib Razak was the “ultimate power” in government-owned company 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) as all important financial decisions had to be approved by him as the prime minister then, former chief financial officer Azmi Tahir told the High Court today.
Azmi, 48, was testifying as the 12th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial in relation to more than RM2 billion of funds misappropriated from 1MDB.
Today, Azmi also testified of how now-fugitive Low Taek Jho was seen as the proxy, adviser, trusted right-hand man for Najib in 1MDB affairs, and how an official in the Prime Minister’s Department had also confirmed Low’s claim of Low’s orders being authorised or coming from Najib himself.
How Jho Low came into the picture
Taking the witness stand for the first time in this trial, Azmi, who was a former banker said he had joined 1MDB on June 1, 2012 as its chief financial officer, adding that his close friend Datuk Azlin Alias who was then the director of the economic division in the Prime Minister’s Department had contacted him shortly after that.
Azmi said Azlin wanted to introduce him to and have him meet an important person in 1MDB who is Low — better known as Jho Low, noting: “This was the first time I heard of an individual named Jho Low who was introduced as 1MDB adviser to Datuk Seri Najib.”
Azmi said he then met alone with Low for the first time in a meeting arranged by Azlin, with the meeting held at Low’s office in KLCC in June 2012.
“During this first meeting, I was told by Jho Low that all instructions given by Datuk Azlin and Jho Low are mandates from Datuk Seri Najib. Therefore, I only have to follow those instructions,” he said.
After the meeting which Azlin had not attended, Azmi said he then checked with Azlin and that the latter confirmed what Low had said.
“Therefore starting from that, I will carry out each instruction received from Datuk Azlin and Jho Low because I believe those instructions are mandates from Datuk Seri Najib and I have to follow them,” he said today.
Belief that Low’s orders are approved by Najib
Azmi said Azlin’s role in 1MDB was to convey the wishes or instructions from then prime minister Najib such as to 1MDB CEOs and 1MDB board of directors, adding that Azlin had instructed him to deal with Low and also officers from the Prime Minister’s Department such as Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin who was the prime minister’s special officer in the economic division.
Azmi said that Azlin had told him that Low is an “adviser or person close to the prime minister who is Datuk Seri Najib” and that Low’s instructions are from the prime minister.
Azmi added that he also understood Low to be close to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and was a trusted person to Najib.
“I only follow orders received from Datuk Azlin to deal with Jho Low and Datuk Amhari as I consider that to be orders from the prime minister,” he said.
Azmi today claimed that Low had planned secret actions for 1MDB with Najib’s alleged “blessing” and via the placement of selected persons in 1MDB’s senior management and board of directors to enable such secret moves to be done.
Azmi said there was a “work in silo” system in place in 1MDB with certain select officers who could be trusted to listen to both Low’s and Azlin’s instructions, adding that he was included in the system and received instructions from Low and Azlin in the form of “mandate” from the then prime minister Najib.
Azmi referred to the Memorandum and Articles of Association or the company constitution of 1MDB, which he said gave “ultimate power” to Najib.
“Officers that are in this work in silo system are forced to follow Jho Low’s instructions as each instruction from him is an instruction from Datuk Seri Najib, and this is in line with Article 117 of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of 1MDB as each important decision has to be under the prime minister’s order and approval.
“Datuk Seri Najib is the person who has ultimate power in making any decisions especially involving investment, financial decision, and national interest,” Azmi said today.
Article 117 of the M&A states that the prior written approval of the prime minister was required for any amendments to the M&A, for the appointment and removal of the company’s directors and senior management team.
According to Article 117 M&A, the prime minister’s prior written approval was also required for any financial commitments by 1MDB, including investments or other matters likely to affect government guarantees, national interests, national security or government policies, with the government to make the “final and conclusive” decision on what amounts to national interests, national security and national policies.
Najib’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed regularly stood up throughout Azmi’s testimony to highlight the parts of the testimony that his client was objecting to due to alleged hearsay.
By : IDA LIM – MALAY MAIL