KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 18): Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak had contemplated taking action against The Edge in 2015 over exposés by the financial newspaper over the mismanagement of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) state investment fund, its former chief financial officer (CFO) Azmi Tahir (pictured) testified at the 1MDB-Tanore trial on Thursday.
Azmi told the court that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho — better known as Jho Low — had asked him to meet with Najib in the UAE in 2015 to brief him about The Edge articles. Azmi could not remember the exact date, but added that it was very shortly after the articles had come out.
"At that point, the company was being attacked by The Edge. There were a series of articles questioning our acquisitions of power plants, our IPO [initial public offering] plans and things like that.
"They referred to Datuk Seri Najib and 1MDB, so there was a link there. It became an issue," Azmi said.
Najib was the sole shareholder of 1MDB and chairman of the board of advisers, apart from also being the finance minister at that time.
The witness said he brought photocopied articles of The Edge as well as articles by other newspapers which picked up on what the financial paper had reported, and there were others present in the discussion with Najib at a hotel in the state, including Najib's then special officer Datuk Wan Ahmad Shihab Wan Ismail.
Azmi recalled that the discussions with Najib over the articles were very brief and added that Najib was a keen listener and had listened intently to Azmi’s brief.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram then asked him about Najib’s demeanour during the briefing.
Sri Ram: What about the meeting in Abu Dhabi over The Edge? From your observation, what was his attitude?
Azmi: He was trying to come to a decision on whether to take some action against The Edge. I was not sure if there were other considerations, but I was there to talk about 1MDB.
Later that year on July 24, 2015, the home ministry suspended the publishing permit of The Edge weekly and The Edge Financial Daily for three months.
A letter by the ministry stated that the two publications' reporting of 1MDB was "prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest".
However, the High Court had revoked the suspension on Sept 21, ruling that the home minister then — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi — had breached Section 7(1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA).
Najib is currently facing 25 counts of money laundering and abuse of power for alleged misappropriation of billions of ringgit in 1MDB funds.
The trial before Justice Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah will continue on Dec 13.
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