KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 — Despite his position as finance minister II then, Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Mohamad Hanadzlah today said that he was told by then prime minister and then finance minister I Datuk Seri Najib Razak to not be involved in the Finance Ministry-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) matters.
Husni, who was formerly the finance minister II from April 2009 until his resignation in June 2016, said this while testifying as the 20th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over the misappropriation of more than RM2 billion of 1MDB funds.
Husni said he had met with Najib in mid-2009 at the Prime Minister’s Office to voice his concern about the setting up of 1MDB — through the federal government’s acquisition of Terengganu state-owned Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) and renaming it to be 1MDB.
Husni said he had told Najib that 1MDB should not be formed without a feasibility study, but said then prime minister Najib had said he would “continue” with the plan.
“So, after he answered like that, I did not comment anything after that,” he told the High Court.
A feasibility study is aimed at making a practical evaluation of proposals for a project and business and financial risks, and this was very important to ensure the investment would result in profits for the government, Husni explained.
After 1MDB was established, Husni said he had received information from Finance Ministry officials of 1MDB’s investment via a joint venture with the company PetroSaudi International, adding that he had then gone to meet Najib again in the latter’s office at the end of 2009 to voice his concerns.
Husni said he had told then prime minister Najib that 1MDB should not enter into such an investment with PetroSaudi as the latter was still in the process of oil exploration and that the investment would be “burnt” if no oil was found, and that he had told Najib that 1MDB had no experience in this industry and that it should be given to Petronas instead.
“But what YAB PM responded to me, he said ‘Husni, I don’t want you to get involved and interfere about 1MDB’,” Husni said, adding that he did not comment further after Najib told him this.
“I confirm, since that meeting between the two of us with the YAB PM only in the PM’s office and since then, I have not been involved at all for any decisions or been told about investments by 1MDB,” he added.
Husni said he was not involved in the process of TIA’s renaming to 1MDB and that he had never met with Low Taek Jho and also TIA’s and 1MDB’s former CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi.
Asked by deputy public prosecutor Deepa Nair Thevaharan on what was the impact of Najib’s remark asking him not to interfere or be involved with 1MDB, Husni said he was “calm” in his thoughts but reiterated his concerns about 1MDB’s then planned joint venture allegedly with PetroSaudi.
Husni said 1MDB matters were not brought to or discussed with him as the finance minister II as Najib did not want him to be involved in 1MDB matters, noting in court for example today that he had not seen some of the 2012 documents relating to Najib’s approval for 1MDB to take on new loans to raise funds.
For a February 20, 2013 Cabinet meeting minutes for example, Husin said that he had decided to not be involved or voice any opinions whenever 1MDB matters are brought to the Cabinet, as Najib did not want him involved in the company’s matters.
Among other things, Husni also testified that he had written an August 23, 2010 letter addressed to Najib as the then prime minister and gave this letter to Najib’s aide to be forwarded to him.
'In this letter, it is clear that I felt worried over 1MDB affairs that could attract controversy and affect the government and the prime minister. But after this letter was submitted, I did not receive any feedback from Datuk Seri Najib about my worries,” he said, adding that he felt he had fulfilled his responsibility as finance minister II then to speak out on 1MDB.
Finally after Najib tapped him in early 2015 to help resolve the debt-laden 1MDB’s problems, Husni and his aide had drafted a rationalisation plan for 1MDB.
When Najib later wanted to transfer him to other ministries, Husni voluntarily decided to quit as finance minister II in June 2016 as he had wanted to continue on with the 1MDB rationalisation plan .
Najib’s 1MDB trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow.