KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — A report detailed today how murdered US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been involved with alleged conspirators of the 1MDB scandal who arranged for him to interview Datuk Seri Najib Razak in 2009.
According to local financial weekly The Edge, fugitive financier Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) and a shareholder of Petro Saudi International (PSI) that was implicated in the 1MDB scandal orchestrated the event in the year Najib became prime minister.
“The interview was arranged by Jho Low and Obaid three months after 1MDB poured US$1 billion into a joint venture with PSI,” The Edge wrote, referring to PSI shareholder and Saudi businessman Tarek Obaid.
“The interview was meant to promote Malaysia, Najib, and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor to the people of Saudi Arabia,” the financial weekly wrote.
The interview with Najib was carried out before Najib’s official visit in January 2010 to Saudi Arabia when he met the late King Abdullah. Najib was also awarded Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honor there — the King Abdulaziz Order of Merit.
The Edge published a series of emails, including a November 25, 2009 email by Najib’s special officer Wan Ahmad Shihab Ismail to Khashoggi.
In the email also copied to Low, Wan Ahmad informed the journalist that the tycoon had given the latter’s email address to him to enable arrangements to be made for the interview.
In a December 2, 2009 email, Obaid instructed for US$100,000 (RM417,990) to be transferred to Khashoggi.
Obaid had in a separate December 8, 2009 email to Jho Low greeted the latter with “hey bro”, before listing out 16 questions that Khashoggi would ask Najib in the interview.
The questions included those touching on the topics of Malaysia’s importance to the Muslim world, the “centrality of Saudi Arabia and a new ‘beginning’ to a Saudi-Malaysian ‘strategic’ relationship, global themes shared by the two countries, Najib’s personal message to the Saudis ahead of his visit to Saudi Arabia, according to the email published by The Edge.
The Edge also showed a December 10, 2009 email by Obaid’s brother, Nawaf Obaid, to Khashoggi with the proposed media plan for the latter’s interview with Najib.
The published email showed Nawaf proposing a “major front-page interview” with Najib on the message and ideas that he wanted to tell the Saudi leadership and people and other matters to be addressed in line with “local Saudi domestic sensitivities and requirements”.
Nawaf also proposed “a smaller interview” with Rosmah “to highlight all her Islamic charitable works for the poor in Malaysia and beyond”, which he said will be very interesting for Saudi women involved in charitable works.
“Furthermore, demonstrating that the wife of the Malaysian PM is so involved in Muslim causes will only reinforce the bonds between our two respective countries,” he wrote, also proposing Khashoggi write several editorial pieces.
Khashoggi’s interview with Najib took place on December 12, 2009, with the two posing for a photo together after the interview, The Edge reported.
Najib was prime minister of Malaysia from March 2009 to May 2018.
According to The Edge, Obaid and the late Saudi ruler King Abdullah’s son Prince Turki Abdullah were shareholders of PSI, with the latter’s standing taking a hit after his father died in 2015.
Turki was removed as Riyadh governor via a royal decree in January 2015.
The Edge said 1MDB lost US$1.8 billion in its dealings with PSI, claiming that much of this sum has allegedly been traced back to the bank accounts of Obaid and Turki, as well as Low and PSI director Patrick Mahony.
On October 2, Khashoggi — who was a fierce critic of Saudi’s Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — was murdered within the Saudi consulate in Turkey.