PETALING JAYA: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has finally pointed the finger at fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, for being involved in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal.
The former prime minister said Low was seen as someone influential who could help Malaysia forge business and diplomatic connections with Middle East countries.
Asked whether Malaysia had been deceived by Low, Najib replied: “Yes, that is the conclusion if we take into account what we know today.”
He was speaking in an interview with Sinar Harian yesterday.
Najib had denied Low was involved in or responsible for 1MDB deals.
In an interview with Reuters earlier this year, Najib said he had never given Low instructions, but Low volunteered to do certain things to help 1MDB, and ultimately it was the 1MDB management and board that made decisions.
In the interview with Sinar Harian, which was aired live on social media, Najib also accused investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc, lawyers and auditors for failing to protect the country’s interests in relation to 1MDB.
He said this when asked whether he ever saw, from an early stage, the possibility that Low would cause the country to lose billions of ringgit.
“Action must be taken if it’s clear that he committed an offence. At that time we had appointed lawyers, auditors and Goldman Sachs, a renowned global investment bank.
“The responsibility of this bank and all the rest was to protect Malaysia’s interests. If they failed to protect Malaysia’s interests, how would I know?” said Najib who was finance minister and chairman of 1MDB at the time.
He added that Goldman Sachs, lawyers and auditors involved in 1MDB should have informed the government that “something was not right”.
Asked about his ties with Low, Najib said the businessman had become a controversial person, but was previously a consultant with the Terengganu Investment Authority, the precursor to 1MDB.
Najib said he had no knowledge of Low’s personal habits.
“I only knew later that he had a big yacht and an aeroplane, had parties – I was not involved, I did not know at all what he had done as we now know. My relationship with him was professional,” he said.
DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, however, slammed Najib for his admission that he was deceived by Low.
“It must be history’s most pathetic mea culpa, contrived and totally unconvincing, completely unable to evoke sympathy and understanding, let alone pity,” Lim wrote on his blog.
Tom Wright, Wall Street Journal journalist and author of the book Billion Dollar Whale, tweeted how the publication had reported on the 1MDB fraud since 2015.
Wright wrote that Najib’s office, in response, called the publication a disgrace to journalism.
“Today, Najib blames Goldman, auditors,” Wright added.
Later, Najib posted on his Facebook to say that news headlines about him saying that Malaysia was “cheated” by Low did not tell the whole story.
The former prime minister wrote that those who had been following developments on 1MDB knew that Low was found to have colluded with the top management of Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Co (IPIC) and Goldman Sachs to transfer funds to himself.
“Yesterday, it was reported that IPIC has sued Goldman Sachs for damages due to allegations of conspiracy to cheat IPIC,” he wrote.
“If all these allegations are true, then Jho Low may have conspired with Goldman Sachs and the top management of IPIC to cheat IPIC.”
Najib urged the people to watch the full interview to understand the whole context of his answer instead of just focusing on one part.
“We know, it is very easy to get the wrong perception when we only read the headline,” he wrote.