Ex-1MDB chairman confirms Najib had his phone number, but spoke to him on Jho Low's phone about US$1b deal

Ex-1MDB chairman confirms Najib had his phone number, but spoke to him on Jho Low's phone about US$1b deal
Ex-1MDB chairman confirms Najib had his phone number, but spoke to him on Jho Low's phone about US$1b deal

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Former 1Malaysia Development Berhad board of directors’ chairman Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh is pictured at Kuala Lumpur High Court April 12, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara

By Ida Lim

Thursday, 19 May 2022 2:25 PM MYT

KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 Former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chairman Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh today confirmed that then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had his phone number, but that the latter had spoken via Low Taek Jho’s handphone to Bakke in September 2009 over a deal involving US$1 billion of 1MDB funds.

Bakke said this while testifying as the 15th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over the misappropriation of more than RM2 billion of 1MDB funds.

The prosecution had previously said in this trial that it would prove that US$20 million, or more than RM60 million, from the US$1 billion sum had ended up in Najib’s account.

The 1MDB board of directors were first notified in a September 18, 2009 board meeting about the proposed joint venture with purported Saudi firm PetroSaudi International which would require 1MDB to put in US$1 billion, and had requested 1MDB management to do the necessary due diligence and to provide updates at the next board meeting on September 26, 2009.

But just before the 1MDB board meeting on September 26, 2009 could start, Low better known as Jho Low and now a fugitive wanted in Malaysia who was in the meeting room then passed his own handphone to Bakke by saying, "PM on the line, want to speak to you”.

Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram today asked about the phone call that was made.

Sri Ram: And the phone call that you received immediately before the meeting commenced, at the time when you spoke to Datuk Seri Najib the accused, on that occasion, did he have your number?

Bakke: Yeah, yeah, yes, he had my number.

Sri Ram: But the call came on whose phone?

Bakke: Jho Low’s phone.

Asked by Najib to quickly firm up a decision on the US$1 billion deal and having conveyed Najib’s instructions to expedite the matter to other 1MDB board members, Bakke previously said the 1MDB board decided on September 26 to unanimously agree to approve the deal following Najib’s instructions despite the due diligence yet to be done by the 1MDB management.

Asked about the board meeting minutes on September 26, 2009 omitting mention of Najib’s phone call to Bakke before the meeting officially started, Bakke confirmed that the omission "insulated” Najib.

"We didn’t put it because we had discussed it and the agreement among board members, that we don’t want to put something in the minutes mentioning PM’s name, saying that he had instructed us to expedite the evaluation for the PetroSaudi proposal and not to look back at how the money was raised. So the board members felt it would not be the right item to be minuted, so that was the consensus among board members,” Bakke said.

Sri Ram: By not mentioning the PM’s name in the meeting minutes, who was insulated?

Bakke: Prime minister, because there’s a consensus about let’s not mention anything linked to the PM.

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