Lawyer: PM’s signature on 1MDB documents a formality, doesn’t mean he decides or knows all

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyer Mohd Hafarizam said the signing of the documents do not necessarily mean that the prime minister has knowledge of or makes the decisions on 1MDB matters. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyer Mohd Hafarizam said the signing of the documents do not necessarily mean that the prime minister has knowledge of or makes the decisions on 1MDB matters. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s signature on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) documents was merely to meet corporate governance requirements, his lawyer Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun said today.

Mohd Hafarizam said the signing of the documents does not necessarily mean that the prime minister has knowledge of or makes the decisions on 1MDB matters.

“It’s just like a formality, you just have to go through the process, because it is operational in the sense without the signature of the prime minister, Article 117 is breached; therefore corporate governance is not complied, that’s how I look at it.

“But it is not something to be read that the prime minister decides almost everything in 1MDB, I’m sure he doesn’t know what’s happening because the board of directors are entrusted to it,” he told reporters when met at the court complex here.

Mohd Hafarizam was referring to Article 117 of 1MDB’s Memorandum and Articles of Association, which states that the prime minister must sign on any deals by 1MDB.

The lawyer explained that Article 117 is just an operative clause, giving the example of public-listed firms where directors would have to sign off a circular resolution to fulfill corporate governance requirements and stressing that those who give their signatures may not know why the documents were required.

“But importantly the question is who made the decision, signing a resolution is the end of the process, the one you should be looking at is how was the decision made?

“It’s not the prime minister who made the decision(s), it’s the board of directors of 1MDB,” he said.

Najib is listed as the chairman of the advisory board of 1MDB, which is separate from the sovereign investment company’s board of directors and management.

Mohd Hafarizam asserted that there are different types of knowledge, namely constructive knowledge and direct knowledge.

Direct knowledge would mean direct involvement and participation, while constructive knowledge could be knowledge obtained from various sources or evidence, he said.

“So to say that he had knowledge, in what terms had knowledge, is it direct or constructive? It is also a point of debate,” the lawyer said.

On April 7, the Public Accounts Committee tabled in Parliament its report on 1MDB’s management and finances.

It recommended the abolition of both 1MDB’s advisory board and Article 117, also saying that all references to the prime minister must be changed to the finance minister to match the provisions in other companies owned by Minister of Finance Incorporated.