KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 — The 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chairman Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh had instructed that no records be kept of him having spoken to then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak before the company’s board meeting on a proposed US$1 billion deal, the High Court heard today.
Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, who was formerly CEO of 1MDB, said the phone call took place before a September 26, 2009 meeting of the 1MDB board started.
Shahrol said businessman Low Taek Jho was present in the meeting room and was on the phone speaking to another individual, and that Low had passed the phone to Bakke.
“Bakke then mouthed ‘PM’ to us and left the room.
“When he came back, I don’t remember the exact words that he said, but essentially he informed the board that he spoke to Datuk Seri Najib and that he was informed that is a government-to-government transaction and to don’t delay or to be expedited,” Shahrol said, referring to the US$1 billion deal that 1MDB board would be deliberating on in the meeting.
Shahrol said he thought that the phone call before the meeting may have been a factor for the “fewer questions” raised by the 1MDB board on the US$1 billion deal.
Shahrol said the meeting was for the 1MDB board to discuss and decide whether to proceed with the proposal to inject US$1 billion into the proposed joint venture with PetroSaudi International Ltd.
When asked by Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah on the lack of records in the 1MDB board meeting’s minutes of the fact that there was such a phone call, Shahrol said this was not written down in line with Bakke’s instructions.
“Explicitly I remember Datuk Bakke asked for it to not be recorded,” Shahrol said, adding however that he could not recall if the secretary tasked with writing down the minutes of the meeting was already present when the pre-meeting phone call took place.
Asked to confirm that Bakke had allegedly said during the meeting that the existence of such a phone call was not to be recorded in the meeting minutes, Shahrol again affirmed: “Yes, that’s my best recollection.”
Other than the phone call, Shahrol said: “If I recall correctly, I even suggested that the meeting be audio-taped and he disageed.”
As for Low’s presence in the 1MDB board meeting despite his lack of an official position within the company, Shahrol said he had invited Low to attend.
“I wanted him to explain directly to the board about the PSI deal and how it came about on the PSI deal and how it came about, specifically on how this is a G2G transaction,” Shahrol said when explaining why Low was asked to attend. (G2G stands for government-to-government).
The meeting minutes recorded Low’s attendance but did not specify Low’s position or his purported role as adviser to Najib, and also did not carry Low’s signature unlike the others who signed to affirm their attendance.
The September 26, 2009 meeting was where the 1MDB board decided to approve the partnership deal with PetroSaudi International Ltd with 1MDB to inject US$1 billion into the joint venture company.
The joint venture deal was signed two days later on September 28, 2009.
Shahrol previously testified that 1MDB received zero returns from this US$1 billion investment and that US$700 million of this was diverted to Good Star Ltd, while the prosecution had on Day One of the trial said it would prove that US$20 million from Good Star ended up allegedly with Najib.
Shahrol had said he had not known about Good Star’s owner, which during this trial was shown to be Low.
The trial resumes at 9.30am tomorrow before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.