Najib’s family’s yacht holiday-turned-diplomatic talks did not go through formal channels, investigator says in 1MDB trial

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should have known that high-level talks between governments should be carried out through proper diplomatic methods, instead of through informal chats during his family’s holiday vacation on a yacht, an investigator told the High Court today.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigating officer Senior Superintendent Nur Aida Arifin said this while testifying as the 49th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over the misappropriation of RM2.2 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.

Her testimony today was about actions that Najib took in relation to a purported joint venture between 1MDB and PetroSaudi International (PSI), which eventually resulted in 1MDB losing billions of ringgit to the purported “investment” which had zero returns.

Nur Aida was referring to events in 2009, when Najib and his family were on holiday in France, and when Najib and now-fugitive Low Taek Jho later met with an individual known as Prince Turki bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Tarek Obaid as PSI representatives on a yacht during the family vacation. Prince Turki was previously said to be the Saudi ruler’s son.

“Datuk Seri Najib’s family holiday meeting which later changed into discussions of diplomatic joint ventures did not go through legitimate and formal discussion channels to the extent it caused huge losses to the country,” she said in the 1MDB trial, referring to the purported government-to-government (G2G) discussions that took place.

Najib’s lead lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the defence is “objecting to all that”, calling this part of Nur Aida’s testimony as an “opinion”.

Nur Aida then continued her testimony.

“That discussion also did not involve senior government officials, when the government is forced to bear the borrowing of funds with full government guarantee on that borrowing.

“Datuk Seri Najib as the prime minister should have known that G-to-G joint venture discussions at the highest levels like this require legitimate diplomatic channels and not originating from informal discussions on a yacht only,” she said.

Addressing the court, Shafee appeared to scoff at the prosecution witness’ testimony, saying that Nur Aida was testifying as if she had been in diplomatic service for a long time.

Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib asked the court to take note of the objection and to deal with it at a later stage of the trial during submissions.

He said the prosecution would not be amending this portion of Nur Aida’s testimony.

Last Tuesday, Nur Aida testified that Najib and his family members were in mid-2009 invited by a Kuwaiti prince and an individual named Sheikh Hammad to holiday on their yacht named RM Elegance that was in the waters of southern France, and that Low and Najib’s special officer Datuk Wan Ahmad Shihab Wan Ismail had arranged this vacation.

Nur Aida had previously also testified that Najib and his family were on the third day of sailing invited by Prince Turki and Tarek Obaid for tea on their yacht that was also sailing in the same waters, and that it was during the meeting on this yacht also attended by Low that discussions were held on a proposed business joint venture between Saudi Arabia and the Malaysian government.

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