1MDB trial: Ex-Treasury sec-gen insists then-PM Najib could contact MoF officials directly

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak as the prime minister and finance minister could call up Finance Ministry (MOF) officers directly, former Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah told the High Court today.

Irwan Serigar said this while testifying as the 42nd prosecution witness in the trial where Najib is facing 25 charges over RM2.28 billion of 1MDB’s funds that were said to have entered his personal bank accounts.

1MDB trial-Ex-Treasury sec-gen insists then-PM Najib could contact MoF officials directly
1MDB trial: Ex-Treasury sec-gen insists then-PM Najib could contact MoF officials directly

Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah suggested that there was a serious disconnect between what 1MDB told the MOF and how such representation goes down among MOF officers.

“And there is a total disconnect, there seems to be nobody double-checking with the PM, to check with the prime minister or the finance minister — the same person — is it true or not true,” Shafee said.

Irwan Serigar then confirmed that he was the “number one” or highest-ranking official for the MOF in his previous role as its secretary-general, and appeared to disagree that MOF officers would be unable to be in direct contact with Najib.

Shafee then asked: “Some of your very senior officers including Siti Zauyah said it’s not my place to ask the finance minister or even finance minister II whether this is correct instruction or otherwise, but you will not be under a similar handicap, not to be able to see the finance minister. Can I confirm with you?”

Irwan Serigar then replied: “Not exactly you know, but the other officers also, the prime minister sometimes directly call them, not necessarily me. In this case, you know, I can ask him, can approach him for anything.”

Later, Najib’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed focused on events surrounding Najib’s signing of a letter of support dated March 14, 2013, which effectively amounted to a government guarantee for the government to pay up if 1MDB subsidiary 1MDB Global Investment Limited (1MDB GIL) cannot pay for its US$3 billion borrowing via a bond.

Asked by Wan Aizuddin, Irwan Serigar confirmed that the government guarantee for the US$3 billion bond was approved via the normal procedure, but noted that it was concluded at a greater speed than usual.

Wan Aizuddin: And you would agree with me, for this episode, this letter of support, how Datuk Seri Najib handled the matter as prime minister and finance minister was not out of the ordinary, and you cannot see anything sinister about it?

Irwan Serigar: It’s a normal process, you know, preparing Cabinet papers, investment and so on, only the speed.

He agreed the speed it was carried on was due to the “urgency” of the matter.

In the quick-paced process, the Finance Ministry prepared an internal memorandum on March 11, 2013 regarding the issue of the letter of support and had then obtained then prime minister Najib’s approval.

1MDB trial in the High Court

After getting Najib’s approval, Finance Ministry officials had on March 11, 2013 then prepared a memorandum to the Cabinet on behalf of the finance minister Najib to seek the Cabinet’s approval.

The Cabinet on March 13, 2013 made the decision to agree to the government’s issuance of the letter of support via the Finance Ministry for 1MDB GIL’s US$3 billion debt, with Najib as the finance minister then signing off on the letter of support dated March 14, 2013. Just days later, the 1MDB subsidiary received the money it had raised from the US$3 billion debt.

Irwan Serigar today said that it would usually take one week for a Cabinet decision to be endorsed and to be sent.

But in this case, the letter of support was signed the next day after the Cabinet decision.

Irwan Serigar agreed with Wan Aizuddin’s suggestion that this was not the only time when the Cabinet or prime minister had asked the Finance Ministry to work quickly on a project.

While saying that the usual process was followed with “no shortcut” for the issuance of this letter of support, Irwan Serigar said it proceeded at a faster speed without certain documents such as investment details being given by 1MDB to the MOF.

He described 1MDB officials as being “uncooperative” as they had refused to give documents sought by the MOF for details on the US$3 billion bond issuance.

He claimed that 1MDB officials were being “arrogant” by insisting that they had already given the documents sought by MOF to then prime minister Najib and to have already briefed the latter, while also claiming to be in constant connection with Najib.

“I would say, you know, the failure of this whole thing is because 1MDB and the board, you know, including the CEO, if they properly managed the project, the project would be viable, 1MDB would be viable. But the mismanagement occurred there, so how I don’t know, because I’m not part of the board at that point of time,” he said.

The 1MDB subsidiary 1MDB GIL had on March 19, 2013 issued the US$3 billion bond, with a 4.4 per cent interest on the US$3 billion sum to be paid until 2023.

The US$3 billion was meant purportedly for investments via a planned joint venture between 1MDB and Abu Dhabi firm Aabar Investments PJS, but it is now known that 1MDB had instead dealt with a fake company that had similar names to Aabar.

The prosecution had on the first day of Najib’s trial said it would show that 1MDB GIL had on March 19, 2013 only received US$2.721 billion of the US$3 billion funds it raised with the balance paid to arranger Goldman Sachs as fees, and that over US$1 billion of the US$2.721 billion was paid to the two funds Devonshire Funds Limited and Enterprise Emerging Markets Fund (EEMF) — now known to be linked to Low Taek Jho — on March 20 and March 21, 2013.

The prosecution had also said it would show that a total of US$890 million — including a US$430 million sum passing through Granton Property Holding — made its way within days from Devonshire and EEMF to Tanore Finance Corporation, and that it would also showed that Tanore had by early April 2013 transferred US$681 or over RM2 billion to Najib’s account.

Granton and Tanore are now known to be under Low’s associate Eric Tan’s control.

Deputy public prosecutor Mohamad Mustaffa P. Kunyalam today informed the High Court that prosecution witness Joanna Yu is set to return to be cross-examined, while the remaining new prosecution witnesses that have yet to testify are former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz and former BSI Bank banker Kevin Michael Swampillai and Omar Mustapha, and indicated that there would then be only two more witnesses to conclude the prosecution’s case.

“And I think that will be all, then there will be two investigating officers that will conclude the case at the end,” he said.

Najib’s 1MDB trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah will resume on December 5.

[Source: MalayMail, Video Source: TheStar on youtube]