1MDB trial: Former CEO tells court he wouldn't have taken the job if he knew money was being embezzled


KUALA LUMPUR: Former CEO of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman told the High Court here that he would not have accepted the position in the company if he knew that money was embezzled from its funds.

He maintained that he had thought the sovereign wealth fund was set up for Umno's benefit as told to him by fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho.

Hazem said Low, or better known as Jho Low, told him this during a meeting at Shangri-La Hotel in Putrajaya just before Hazem joined 1MDB as COO in 2012.

He said former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's late former principal private secretary Datuk Azlin Alias also joined the meeting.

"He (Azlin) was there to listen," Hazem said here Wednesday (Jan 6).

The 10th prosecution witness, who was under cross-examination by lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, was testifying in the 1MDB trial involving Najib.

Shafee: Did you check whether Jho Low's statement (about 1MDB and Umno) was true? A lot of people make claims to boast. 'Jual nama' (to name-drop).

Hazem: Well, Azlin was there. He was one of Najib's special officers.

Shafee then retorted that he could not call Azlin nor examine him, as the latter passed away in a helicopter crash in April, 2015.

Shafee: That's why I have to ask you. You agree with me that on that day, you have not been absorbed as COO yet. More or less you were being interviewed in the meeting.

Hazem: Yes.

In the same line of questioning, Hazem admitted that he was fully aware that 1MDB was fully owned by the government.

Shafee: You agree that Umno is not the owner of 1MDB?

Hazem: Yes.

Shafee: Straightaway you must have told yourself this is dirty business. You are to be made CEO.

Hazem: Yes.

Shafee suggested that something was rotten within the company, to which Hazem replied that he realised the company was "politically-linked" based on what Low told him.

"I realised that this company, I'd say politically-linked... in the sense that it would be used as a vehicle to raise funds," the witness said.

Shafee: If Jho Low didn't tell you this, you wouldn't know that 1MDB was created for the benefit of Umno.

Hazem: On that day, I wouldn't know but I would probably know later from my friends.

Shafee: When Jho Low made this statement (about 1MDB and Umno), was Azlin quiet?

Hazem: Yes.

The witness also agreed to the suggestion that money flew out of company funds.

Shafee: You would never have thought of it, not in your lifetime, that this money would one day be accused of being sent back for Najib's benefit.

Hazem: No (I did not).

Shafee: Why didn't you expect this? Because this scheme is outlandish?

Hazem: Yes, I didn't expect this.

Shafee: And if this (scheme) was communicated to you, you may not accept the appointment (in the company)?

Hazem: Yes.

Shafee: Why wouldn't you accept the appointment if you knew?

Hazem: Like you said, it was outlandish the way the scheme was undertaken.

During the height of the 1MDB scandal, not much was known about Hazem, who joined 1MDB as a COO in August 2012.

He took over as CEO from Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi on March 25,2013, before stepping down in January 2015.

Najib, 68, is facing four charges of abusing his position to obtain gratification totalling RM2.28bil in 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money.

The hearing continues before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah on Thursday (Jan 7).

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