KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — A former chairman of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) today said then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had in 2016 made a phone call asking him to meet the then Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) chairman Datuk Seri Hasan Arifin, ahead of the bipartisan parliamentary watchdog’s inquiry into 1MDB.

Former 1MDB chairman Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh said he was also asked to not mention Najib or Low Taek Jho in the PAC proceedings that he was to attend.

Bakke said this while testifying as the 15th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over the misappropriation of more than RM2 billion of 1MDB funds.

Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah was asking why the notes of PAC proceedings on February 11, 2016 had not recorded Bakke as having informed then prime minister Najib about 1MDB management’s irregularities being the cause for Bakke’s resignation from the 1MDB board in 2009.

Bakke then sought to provide the context for what had happened before he attended the PAC hearing on February 11, 2016, noting that he was called to attend two meetings with the PAC chairman before he testified in the PAC hearings about 1MDB.

“And about maybe two weeks before that, I received a call from the prime minister asking me to meet with the chairman of the PAC, Datuk Hasan Arifin. He asked me to meet up at the house of Datuk Seri Ahmad Farid Ridzuan, the former managing director of TV3.

“And if I could just recall the kind of words, the PM, the telephone call was from the PM, definitely before the PAC hearing. He wanted me to meet up with Hasan Arifin and also with Datuk Farid Ridzuan, just to make sure that we all understand roughly what needed to be shared or said at the PAC, and that was the gist of it, some kind of harmony.

“At that time the concern was to safeguard the reputation of PM, worried about the fallout from this 1MDB matter, 1MDB saga.

“I said ok, but I also mentioned to PM, your concerns would be allayed if I’m not called to this hearing, that would be better, but obviously that was not the case, I was called,” he said.

Bakke said he met Hasan twice on two different days at Farid’s house in Kiara Hills, with former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi present at the first meeting and then 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy present at the second meeting.

“I got this impression that Hasan Arifin and Farid were just trying to get me to be more accommodative, don’t be too hard with your testimony or replies to the PAC, don’t try to skirt certain things, because Jho Low’s name was considered taboo anyway, cannot mention.

Asked what matters were considered to be “sensitive”, Bakke replied: “Two things, one, Jho Low’s name, the other — the PM — try not to make any reference to the PM, try to just talk about in terms of management, was more trying to set up things on management. That was the sort of comments shared or the kind of subtle guidelines or instructions that were flagged out by Datuk Hasan Arifin and also Farid Ridzuan — these two because they were the ones that organised this.”

Bakke said he just listened as he knew what he would be saying at the PAC inquiry and that he would not be compromising his testimony at the PAC inquiry, noting: “I wouldn’t allow anyone to influence me. So I would just relate that, because those are factual things, so I’m not going to mince my words.”