Fugitive financier Low Taek Jho pushed for the company constitution to be amended to give accused Najib Razak “absolute power” over 1Malaysia Development Bhd, the KL High Court heard today.
Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi told the Kuala Lumpur High Court that it was Low, better known as Jho Low, who proposed for Article 117 to be inserted into the sovereign wealth fund’s memorandum and articles of association.
The amendment gives a sitting prime minister “kuasa mutlak” (absolute power) and overrides Article 9(a), which grants that power to the federal government.
The witness said Wong & Partners was consulted for the amendment, with one Brian Chia acting as lead lawyer.
Shahrol said the amendment was not merely an administrative matter but to facilitate a real change of authority.
“It (the instruction) came from Jho (Low). He said this was what Datuk Seri Najib wanted. To make it unambiguous,” he testified.
Najib, 66, is on trial for four counts of power abuse to enrich himself with RM2.3 billion from 1MDB and 21 counts of laundering the same amount.
Prosecutors have accused him of conspiring with the Penang-born Low, who is on the run, to defraud the state investor.
During cross-examination today, lead defence counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah suggested that it was not unusual for a prime minister to have such powers over national firms.
Shafee referred to Article 109 of the Petronas memorandum and articles of association, which the lawyer said gave the prime minister even more powers.
“It is such an overwhelming power that the prime minister can virtually overrule the entire board,” Shafee said, to which the witness agreed.
The 1MDB constitution was amended during an extraordinary general meeting on August 11, 2009.
Article 117 gave Najib powers to appoint directors to 1MDB’s board, dissolve it, hire or fire senior management as well as direct policy and investments, in line with national interests.
The 49-year-old witness testified last month that any action by 1MDB must have written approval from Najib and that its board must also report to him and get his mandate.
Najib is represented by a dozen lawyers led by Shafee.
Former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram leads the prosecution before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah. – TMI