Ex-1MDB CFO Azmi denies he was dropped from suit to be witness against Najib

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Azmi claims he did not know why he was not charged.

Saifullizan Tamadi/NST

A former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) chief financial officer (CFO) today denied he was dropped as a defendant in a civil suit by the sovereign wealth fund so he could testify against Najib Razak.

At Najib’s graft trial involving RM2.28 billion in 1MDB funds, ex-CFO Azmi Tahir denied when asked by Najib’s lawyer Hariharan Tara Singh at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, that the removal of his name from the suit was so that he would testify against the former prime minister.

The US$8 billion (RM33.26 billion) civil suit by 1MDB against the company’s former office bearers was filed in May last year. In August the same year, Azmi and six others had their names dropped from the suit.

Hariharan: I put it to you that your name was removed so that you would give incriminating evidence against Najib?

Azmi: I disagree.

Hariharan: Now, do you agree that the people who are not called as a witness, their name remained as defendants in the suit?

Azmi: It looks that way.

Azmi is the 12th prosecution witness in Najib’s 1MDB graft trial.

Hariharan said 1MDB had also dropped other defendants for the same reason, to testify against Najib. These include former 1MDB chief executive officer Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman and former 1MDB director Ismee Ismail.

The civil suit is one of 22 actions the state investment firm has filed to claim more than US$23 billion for itself and its former subsidiary SRC International.

The removal of Azmi’s name was contained in the amended writ filed on July 12 last year.

Today, Hariharan showed the court several charges that other former 1MDB staff faced, such as criminal breach of trust charges of 1MDB’s property worth US$125 million against Azmi’s then deputy, Terence Geh Choh Heng.

The lawyer then questioned why Azmi as then CFO, and as Geh’s superior and co-signatory, besides being director of several 1MDB subsidiaries, did not face criminal charges.

Hariharan: Do you agree with me that it is not possible for Geh to act alone without you co-signing?

Azmi: There were a lot of transactions. The company is quite big, we have a lot of projects. Sometimes it was signed with me, sometimes with others.

Azmi also said today that he did not know why he was not charged.

Hariharan then said Azmi would have been “ultimately responsible” as chief, but the witness said he did not make decisions himself and only followed fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho’s instructions.

During cross-examination, Hariharan had also asked Azmi if he had “a sense of who was the target” of the 1MDB investigation.

Hariharan: Now, were you told by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers (after the 2018 general election), when they recorded your statement, that the investigation was on Najib?

Azmi: No, they just wanted to record my statement on 1MDB. There was no mention of who was going to be charged, just what happened here and there.

Najib is facing 25 charges of abuse of power and money-laundering involving RM2.28 billion in 1MDB funds, which were allegedly deposited into his AmBank accounts between February 2011 and December 2014.

The 68-year-old Pekan MP faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

The trial continues at the Kuala Lumpur High Court before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah. – TMI