Jho Low known as ‘PMO’ in 1MDB board meetings was ‘the man’, ex-CEO tells Najib’s trial

(MMO) – Low Taek Jho’s name was not mentioned in 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) board meetings but his instructions were instead described as “PMO” or the Prime Minister’s Office, the company’s former CEO Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman told the court today.

Testifying as the 10th prosecution witness in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s trial involving over RM2 billion of 1MDB funds, Hazem said that Low “knew” about 1MDB’s internal information, but acknowledged that he would have no problem sharing such information with Low.

“Like I told you, that’s the culture, he’s the man,” Hazem told the High Court.

Hazem yesterday told the court that Low was the one that ran the company, and that he was required even as 1MDB CEO to follow Low’s instructions whether or not he agreed with them.

Hazem had previously described Low as Najib’s trusted right-hand man, proxy and special adviser for 1MDB, but today explained how 1MDB board members sidestepped having Low’s name recorded in official documents as it was understood that the latter did not want this done.

Questioned by Najib’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed today, Hazem confirmed that he had never officially disclosed in 1MDB board meetings that he was being instructed by Low on the company’s affairs.

“Off the record, yes. If I speak to the chairman or board members, yes. There were times when the CFO was briefing the board, and if these were instructions by Jho Low, we would say ‘PMO’,” Hazem replied.

Aizuddin: Why can’t you say it is instructions from Jho Low, if you say the chairman of the board knows and other board members knows?

Hazem: Because obviously on record, he is not supposed to be there.

When asked how he had gotten the impression that Low’s directions or Low’s involvement in the management of 1MDB should not be put on record, Hazem said it was Low and the rest of the individuals that Low had “planted” into the organisation such as Jasmine Loo and other now-fugitives Jerome Lee and Terence Geh.

Asked if it was only Low who had said his name could never be mentioned in 1MDB board meetings or 1MDB documents despite being the person actually giving instructions on the company, Hazem said however that “everybody is aware and it’s understood that the name Jho Low is not supposed to be mentioned on record”.

“I think whatever it is, it is a rule basically that this name cannot be part of the company. That is the modus operandi,” he added.

Hazem joined 1MDB as chief operating officer in August 2012 and was its CEO from March 2013 to early January 2015.

Hazem added today that Low had told him even before he joined the company to not mention his name, noting that this was in a July 15, 2012 meeting at the Putrajaya Shangri-La with Low as Najib’s adviser and with Najib’s then principal private secretary Datuk Azlin Alias. That was Hazem’s first meeting with Low.

Aizuddin: Were you puzzled or taken aback why can’t mention his name? Because obviously if you were to direct me as an honest business person, I have to make full disclosure to the board?

Hazem: This is the culture that has been practised and this is not just any company, and this is a government-owned company, and the one who is controlling this is the most supreme power in the country.

Hazem stopped short of describing who was the “most supreme power” in the country.

Hazem agreed that full and frank disclosure is very important as 1MDB was dealing with the people’s money, but later pinpointed Najib directly when questioned further by Wan Aizuddin.

Aizuddin: So when Jho Low told you, ‘Don’t mention my name in any documents or minutes’, didn’t you question him that? You say this is not right, I’m not your puppet?

Hazem: This is the instruction. This is basically a company that is right on top of the PMO. The prime minister.

Najib’s 1MDB trial before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow morning.