KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 ― Now-fugitive Low Taek Jho had continued to work behind the scenes in 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), as 1MDB directors would not disregard his emails in view of his close relationship with then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the High Court heard today.
Former 1MDB director Tan Sri Ismee Ismail said this was despite Low not having an official position in the government-owned 1MDB.
Ismee was testifying as the 13th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial involving 25 charges in relation to more than RM2 billion of funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB.
Ismee said he viewed Low ― popularly known as Jho Low ― to be acting as adviser to Najib in both 1MDB’s predecessor Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) and 1MDB itself.
“Why I say Jho Low has good relationship with Datuk Seri Najib is because from what I remember, there were many times Jho Low used the name of Datuk Seri Najib when talking (percakapan) and in his proposals with the label ‘boss’ or ‘PM’ during meetings and so on.
Noting that Low was only officially appointed in TIA and TIA’s steering committee, Ismee said there were no proposals in 1MDB to appoint Low to official roles.
Ismee however said that Low was still working behind the scenes in 1MDB as the 1MDB board of directors including Ismee frequently receives emails from Low’s email address [email protected].
Ismee said these emails from Low were sent to 1MDB’s management which was then copied to the 1MDB board of directors, with the emails being proposals to the board and management about investments to be carried out by 1MDB.
“I don’t know in what capacity Jho Low gives those emails and the level of his involvement in 1MDB.
“What I and the board of directors know, Jho Low has a very good relationship with Datuk Seri Najib. Because of the good relationship between Jho Low and Datuk Seri Najib, the board of directors did not (mengabaikan langsung) totally disregard Jho Low’s emails. But what I see in the board of directors, each matter must go through the correct channels and follow proper corporate governance,” he said.
Ismee said he would usually not take much note of Low’s emails as he knew that the latter was not anyone in 1MDB, and said he did not know why Low could send such emails.
While saying he would understand if Low sent emails to him and the directors at the TIA stage, Ismee however said: “But in 1MDB, I’m not sure why he still sent emails to me when Jho Low is not 1MDB’s official adviser. I think it was possibly be due to my capacity as a director and his good relationship with Datuk Seri Najib,” he said.
Ismee also noted that he had once followed Najib on an official visit to Abu Dhabi, adding that he had seen Low there and observed the latter to have close ties with Abu Dhabi based on the way he interacted with the latter country.
With the official visit being for 1MDB to see the model of a mosque planned to be built in Malaysia under 1MDB’s joint venture with Abu Dhabi firm Aabar, Ismee said Abu Dhabi had shown a high level of welcome towards Najib such as with a military airshow.
“And there was once during the Haj season, Jho Low had helped obtain an additional Haj quota of 10,000 persons for Malaysians,” he said.
Among other things, Ismee also highlighted Low’s attendance at a special board meeting on September 26, 2009, and how Low had handed over his handphone to then chairman Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh before the meeting could start.
Ismee said Bakke had then informed everyone at the meeting that “PM call” and left to take the call, and that Bakke had returned several minutes later and informed the board that he had just spoke to Najib who wanted the board to speed up its decision on a proposed joint venture with PetroSaudi International Ltd (PSI).
Ismee said 1MDB’s board had at the meeting of September 26, 2009 agreed to approve the joint venture despite the short time given with the proposal paper having been presented just days earlier in a September 18, 2009 board meeting.
While acknowledging that the 1MDB board’s approval was unanimous, Ismee suggested that the directors might have asked the 1MDB management to postpone the joint venture to enable further studies to be carried out, if not for Najib’s instructions.
“Without Datuk Seri Najib’s intervention and instruction to Tan Sri Bakke and also the board of directors during the special meeting on September 26, 2009, the joint venture with PSI may have been finalised but not in that September 26, 2009 meeting as there were further instructions by the board of directors in this meeting that has to be carried out by the 1MDB management first before the joint venture is finalised,” he said.
He also said the 1MDB board of directors does have the powers to stop or reject the proposed joint venture with PSI but noted that the chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisers — who was Najib as the prime minister then — has the powers under the 1MDB company constitution’s Article 117 to override their decision and could also appoint new directors if dissatisfied with any of the directors.
Among other things, Ismee also spoke of how he had seen Low in Najib’s suite at Hotel Dorchester, London in May 2011.
At that time, Ismee said 1MDB’s board of directors and PSI officials had gone to Najib’s suite for a meeting but noted that Low did not attend the meeting despite being spotted at the suite.