KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 18): The board of directors in 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) was used to make illegal transactions seem legitimate as information given to them was misleading and concealed from them, said former 1MDB director Tan Sri Ismee Ismail (pictured).
Speaking on the witness stand on Thursday at the 1MDB-Tanore trial, Ismee justified the decisions the board took which in turn led to the state investment arm being duped of billions of ringgit by fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, who is commonly known as Jho Low.
“I don’t think we could have acted differently to protect the interests of 1MDB.
“After going through all of this from the information in this trial and news reports, my assumption was that the board [in 1MDB] was being used to make the transactions seem legitimate, to the extent that misleading information was given to us and even concealing information from the board,” he said during his examination-in-chief conducted by prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram.
He said that had he known the full or complete picture of the financial misdeeds of the company, he would have turned down the appointment to be a board member from the get-go.
“How would I have acted differently if I would have known? I would’ve not taken up the appointment to be a board member,” he told Judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah.
The board members were not “toothless tigers”
Sri Ram then asked Ismee about the contention from the defence that members of the board were “toothless tigers”, to which the witness said that as a board, they had made decisions and disagreed with that suggestion.
“For me to answer that question, maybe allow me to explain a few things. Since I was seated here, I’m not here as Ismee of 1MDB. I’m representing other directors of 1MDB, I have to be fair to my other colleagues. We all have different views and assumptions [of the events].
“But at the end of the day we made the decisions,” he said.
He then referred to his witness statement where on multiple occasions he had said the board had not asked questions about management decisions.
In clarifying this, Ismee said the board didn’t question how the deals were done but always questioned the “economics and viability” of the deals.
“We didn’t ask questions, what we meant [by] 'we did not ask questions' was that we won’t question the transactions. But we questioned [the] economics and viability of [the] transactions. We even asked [about] acquisition of the deals. We didn’t ask on the transactions itself,” he clarified.
Wanted to quit in 2015 but was asked to stay
Ismee also revealed to the court that he had wanted to step down from the board in 2015, as he did not want any part in making decisions for the company.
The 57-year-old prosecution witness said he submitted his resignation letter to Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, who was former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's special officer then.
He was then asked by Amhari to stay on and eventually in 2016, the board and management resigned since 1MDB had appointed a new board and management.
Ismee said he was worried about the implications of future decisions he would have to make with the board and wanted no part to play in it anymore.
Najib is the only accused in the trial and is currently facing 25 counts of money laundering and abuse of power for alleged misappropriation of billions of ringgit in 1MDB funds.
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