Bakke: I was asked to safeguard Najib’s name at PAC hearings by its chairman

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KUALA LUMPUR (May 18): 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s (1MDB) former chairman Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh revealed in court on Wednesday (May 18) that two weeks ahead of testifying before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2015 about the goings-on of 1MDB, its then chairman Datuk Seri Hasan Arifin met him twice to brief him on what to say at the hearings, namely to safeguard former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s name, along with not mentioning fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, more commonly known as Jho Low.

Testifying at the 1MDB-Tanore trial before Justice Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah in which Najib is the only accused, Bakke revealed that before he went to testify before the parliamentary committee, Najib had called him and told him to meet with Hasan.

Bakke then said that Najib had wanted him to meet with Hasan to corroborate his testimony before the committee.

Bakke said that he attended two such meetings.

The meetings were hosted by Datuk Seri Ahmad Farid Ridzuan, who was at the time in charge of “image branding” for Najib.

“He (Najib) wanted me to meet up with Hasan Arifin and Farid to make sure we all understood roughly what needed to be shared or said at the PAC, and that was the gist of it, some kind of harmony. At the time the concern was to safeguard the reputation of the prime minister. They were worried about the fallout from this 1MDB matter and 1MDB saga,” he said, adding that they also asked to not mention Jho Low as it was considered “taboo”.

“The first meeting [was to] come up with certain guidelines… don’t [say] something that can be seen as sensitive or [may cause a] ripple effect,” he testified, adding that former 1MDB chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi was present at the first meeting in 2015.

“I got the impression that Hasan and Farid [were trying] to get [me] to be more accommodating, don’t be so hard on with my testimony.”

He also said there was also a second meeting in which ex-1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy was present instead of Shahrol, however he did not reveal much about this meeting.

Hasan is the current member of parliament for Rompin, and was the PAC chairman from October 2015 to April 2018.

At the time, he was nominated by Najib and appointed to the post by former Dewan Rakyat speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia.

On Wednesday (May 18), upon cross-examination by Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Bakke said that he merely conveyed the facts to the PAC.

“Alhamdulillah… I already knew what to say… those were the facts… I’m not going to mince my words,” he testified.

Shafee then asked Bakke why he brought up the meetings if he had not “minced” his words and was not swayed by the meetings, to which Bakke replied that he was merely giving context to the goings-on of the PAC hearings.

Shafee: You said Jho Low was taboo and don’t mention him. But you mentioned him. You didn’t follow the guidelines [at the meetings]. They (Hasan and Farid) also said ‘don’t mention the prime minister’s name’ but that was irrelevant because you mentioned his name in the PAC. The meetings were not relevant because they did not affect you.

Bakke: Yes.

Shafee: I don’t know why you mentioned the meetings (with Hasan and Farid) as they didn’t affect your testimony before the PAC. So why did you mention them?

Bakke: I just wanted to give you context.

Previously, Shahrol also testified about these meetings when he took the stand in 2019 as the ninth prosecution witness.

Shahrol said that throughout these meetings, it was conveyed that the 1MDB issue was a political attack against Najib.

“Throughout all these meetings, the message was very strongly [conveyed] that it was a political attack against the PM and to downplay any role Datuk Seri Najib had in the decision-making of 1MDB,” he testified.

Najib is currently facing 25 charges of money laundering and abuse of power over the alleged embezzlement of billions of ringgit belonging to 1MDB.

The trial continues before Justice Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah.

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