Bakke contended that he did not allow the meetings to influence his PAC testimony.
Former 1MDB chairperson Mohd Bakke Salleh testified that he attended two meetings to get “guidelines’ for his testimony to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Feb 11, 2016.
The 15th prosecution witness told the Kuala Lumpur High Court this morning that Najib Abdul Razak wanted him to attend the meetings in order to keep out the names of the then prime minister and key figure Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, from the PAC hearing on the 1MDB affair.
During the RM2.28 billion 1MDB corruption trial against Najib, Bakke testified that the two meetings – that allegedly transpired two weeks before the PAC hearing – were conducted by then PAC chairperson Hasan Arifin and held at the house of then TV3 managing director Ahmad Farid Ridzuan.
The witness claimed that Najib telephoned him to attend the meetings, whereby the first meeting was attended by former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, while the second meeting was attended by the fund’s then CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
“If I could recall the kind of words used by the PM in the telephone call, it was two weeks before the PAC hearing.
“He wanted me to meet Hasan and Farid just to make sure we all understood roughly what needed to be said at PAC.
“At the time, it was to support the reputation of the PM as there was a worry of a fallout from the 1MDB saga,” Bakke claimed.
“The meetings were to come up with a certain kind of guidelines for when (Bakke testifies) at the PAC so as not to reveal something sensitive that could create a ripple effect, that was how I interpreted it,” Bakke told trial judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.
The witness testified that he got the impression from these two meetings that Hasan and Farid were trying to get him to not be too hard with his testimony to the PAC.
“I got this impression that Hasan 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.”
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.”
In 2019 during a separate criminal trial against Najib and Arul Kanda over the 1MDB audit report, Shahrol had testified attending a seemingly similar meeting with then Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan, where he was allegedly asked to downplay Najib and Low’s role in the affair.
Bakke got into a verbal tussle with defence lawyer Mohamed Shafee Abdullah over whether the former had told the PAC that he had sent a short messaging service (SMS) to Najib in 2009 over concerns with wrongdoing at 1MDB.
As Najib looked on from the dock, Shafee showed in court the copy of the Hansard over the PAC hearing and pointed out that Bakke made no mention he ever sent such an SMS to Najib, and only told the parliamentary committee that he informed his concerns to the Finance Ministry.
However, Bakke reiterated that despite the PAC report making no mention of the SMS, his style of speaking and behaviour would have resulted in him mentioning the SMS to the PAC.
Previously, the witness had testified that he sent the SMS to Najib in late 2009 over concerns with what was transpiring in 1MDB, adding that he found it unusual that the then premier did not reply to the message. Bakke later resigned in October of that year.
Bakke also previously testified that he suspected Najib was involved in irregular transactions at 1MDB.
The hearing before Sequerah continues today.
Najib is on trial for four counts of abuse of power and 21 counts of money laundering involving RM2.28 billion of 1MDB’s funds.
The prosecution contended that the wrongdoing at 1MDB was done by Low under the authority of Najib.
The defence team claimed the accused had no knowledge of wrongdoing and that the whole embezzlement scheme was solely masterminded by Low and several members of the fund’s management team.
Besides being a former premier and finance minister, Najib also used to be the chairperson of 1MDB’s board of advisers.