Ex-aide: Najib never contradicted Jho Low’s claims when asked
KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak never disputed or contradicted Low Taek Jho’s instructions when he was asked about these, a former aide told the High Court today.
Datuk Wan Ahmad Shihab Wan Ismail, formerly a special officer of Najib when the latter was prime minister, said this while testifying in court.
Wan Ahmad Shihab is the 16th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over the misappropriation of more than RM2 billion of government-owned company 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) funds.
Answering deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib, Wan Ahmad Shihab said it was “only on occasions” that Low would send him messages over the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) platform, and confirmed that such dealings were not on a daily basis.
Akram: When you checked with Datuk Seri Najib, have you ever received negative answers?
Wan Ahmad Shihab: No.
Earlier today, Wan Ahmad Shihab told the court about how he had checked personally with Najib to verify information that came from Low regarding three holiday trips for Najib and his family on yachts in Europe, and had said that Najib had confirmed such information each time when asked.
On all three occasions when he was contacted by Low during the 2009 to 2013 period regarding purported invitations for Najib and his family to holiday in France, Greece and Italy on yachts allegedly owned by princes from three Middle East countries, Wan Ahmad Shihab confirmed that he did not take Low’s information for granted but had double-checked such claims with Najib who was the prime minister then.
For example, for the first yacht trip invitation told by Low in August 2009, Wan Ahmad Shihab said he had made logistical arrangements for the entourage after he had verified the matter with Najib and obtained further instructions from Najib.
Wan Ahmad Shihab said this was the first time that Low had engaged directly with him to do something for the prime minister.
Asked by Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Wan Ahmad Shihab agreed that there would be many individuals who would claim to have spoken to the prime minister and asking him to carry out instructions, further agreeing that it is a “fair picture” for Shafee to say that it was common for people from outside to try and influence the staff of the prime minister’s office.
Shafee: It is for that reason that you did not take Jho Low’s words for granted, you double-checked whether what Jho Low said is truly the picture.
Wan Ahmad Shihab: That’s correct.
Wan Ahmad Shihab agreed that he had then first confirmed with then prime minister Najib first, before carrying out his assignment regarding the overseas holiday trip in southern France in 2009.
Agreeing that he had not known earlier of this invitation for Najib and his family to go on vacation on an invitation purportedly from a Kuwait prince, Wan Ahmad Shihab said this was what he wanted to confirm with Najib.
Commenting on how Low had also told him that he had been selected to be the officer accompanying Najib and the family on the holiday trip, Wan Ahmad Shihab said: “I found it odd and I found it was akin to him trying to impress on me that he is close to the family”.
Wan Ahmad Shihab agreed with Shafee’s suggestion that it was not uncommon for outsiders and “wannabes” to be seen as close to the prime minister and to try to impress his officials by saying that the officials would be coming along.
Wan Ahmad Shihab had also first verified with Najib about the second holiday trip and the claim that he had been selected to go along after being told by Low, partly due to Wan Ahmad Shihab being one of the many officers serving the prime minister that may be selected to come along for the trip.
Commenting on how Wan Ahmad Shihab had asked Najib about the third holiday trip mentioned by Low, Shafee said: “So this is the third time in all your dealings, vis a vis the question of even just holidays, you went back to Datuk Seri Najib the prime minister and your boss, and you asked him, ‘is this true, what Jho Low suggested and am I supposed to do anything about it’ and the prime minister confirmed with you certain things you are supposed to do?’ Wan Ahmad Shihab confirmed this.
Wan Ahmad Shihab agreed it is “dangerous” for him to rely on an outsider no matter how close the person is to the prime minister’s office and to act on it without confirmation from the prime minister.
Wan Ahmad Shihab agreed with Shafee’s suggestion that other individuals such as former 1MDB chairman Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh could easily communicate with Najib when he was the prime minister.
“One of the things I was annoyed about as officers of the prime minister was that the prime minister at that time was too accessible, almost anyone could reach him. Sometimes as officers, it was annoying we were being second-guessed by other people who had access to the PM,” he said, referring to Najib as he had never served any other prime ministers.
The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow morning.
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