1MDB audit trial: Najib pushed for JV with PetroSaudi after Jho Low handed him phone

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A former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) board member today said it was not a mere impression that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho @ Jho Low represented Najib in matters relating to the sovereign wealth fund.

Instead, Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh said Jho Low was indeed the coordinator and representative of the former prime minister based on his own observations.

Bakke said he had even spotted Jho Low at Najib’s office even from the time the latter was at the defence ministry and deputy prime minister.

He recalled that Najib had once even told him to work with Jho Low in the setting up of 1MDB’s predecessor company, the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA).

Bakke said the Terengganu ruler Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin had then appointed him and several others to be members of the TIA’s steering committee in early 2009 and Jho Low was appointed as its advisor.

Replying to a question from Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhmmad Shafee Abdullah, Bakke said Jho Low however never had any official position in 1MDB.

Later, Bakke also related how the 1MDB board was unhappy about losses incurred following the issuance of the Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN) but Najib had then told him not to delve too much into the matter.

Instead, he said Najib wanted the 1MDB board to speed up plans for a joint venture (JV) with PetroSaudi International (PSI) Limited which required 1MDB to pump in US$1 billion.

Bakke said this happened before a board meeting on Sept 26, 2009, when Jho Low handed his mobile phone to him and said the prime minister was on the line.

“He (Najib) told me not to spend too much time looking at past transactions but instead focus on the JV with PSI.

“He said he wanted to witness the signing of the JV between 1MDB and PSI as soon as possible.”

Bakke had previously told the court that Low attended the 1MDB board meeting on Sept 26, 2009.

However, Jho Low’s presence at the meeting was removed in the National Audit Department’s (NAD) audit report on 1MDB on the grounds that it was a sensitive issue and to allegedly prevent the opposition from spinning the facts.

The other items that were removed were two 1MDB 2014 financial statements, the issuance of IMTN and the Islamic bonds’ secondary subscriber.

Bakke was testifying in Najib’s trial over the tampering of the 1MDB audit report. Former 1MDB chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy is accused of abetting him.

The trial before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan resumes on April 12.

Earlier reports:

Mar 31, 1MDB audit trial: Former A-G Ambrin reluctant to share opinion on 1MDB audit report

Mar 30, Former auditor general shocked copy of original 1MDB report was ordered to be destroyed