KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 15): Former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz testified in the High Court on Tuesday (Aug 15) that her husband Datuk Dr Tawfiq Ayman does not know former Goldman Sachs bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng Chong Hwa, and that he had never received any bribes.
Zeti, who is testifying as the prosecution's 46th witness in the 1MDB-Tanore trial of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was cross-examined by Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who asked her about an admission by Leissner during the New York criminal trial of Ng last year involving 1MDB.
Leissner claimed that Ayman had received a bribe in exchange for an overnight approval by BNM for 1MDB to remit US$1 billion to PetroSaudi International Ltd (PSI) in 2009.
Shafee read to Zeti court transcripts from Leissner’s time on the witness stand in Ng's case, in which Leissner said Ng told him that “bribery” was involved in the “unprecedented” approval for such a sizeable transfer. He was quoted as saying: “In 2009, there were still capital controls in place, and a billion dollars was wired overnight to the joint venture (JV), because the husband of the then [central bank] governor had received a bribe.” Leissner, however, said that he could not independently verify whether this was true.
Shafee also asked Zeti on Tuesday if she had been briefed on this testimony, to which she replied that she was aware of it through media reports.
“He (Ayman) said he had never received any bribe in his whole life. He had made reference that he doesn't know them and never met them at all,” she said.
Zeti was referring to a press statement Tawfiq released shortly after Leissner’s testimony last year denying that he had received bribes in any transactions linked to the 1MDB scandal. Tawfiq added that he did not know Leissner or Ng, nor had he met or communicated with the duo.
He was quoted as saying: “I wish to categorically state that throughout my entire life, I have never received any bribe from anyone.”
Shafee then asked Zeti on Tuesday why neither she nor BNM had made a statement to clarify the matter, to which she responded that she was advised not to make a statement, as it would affect the 1MDB proceedings.
Shafee then asked her: “But your husband did [release a statement to clarify his position].”
Zeti responded that her husband released the statement to clear the air, as the allegations involved him directly.
Shafee: But the allegations imply that he had received a bribe and was able to influence you.
Zeti: We need to address that issue separately — how the approval was given. BNM's green light for the overnight US$1 billion remittance from 1MDB out of the country [was] not unprecedented.
Earlier, Shafee asked Zeti about the approval process for the US$1 billion transfer, referring to the controversial transfer where the 1MDB board had directed that the US$1 billion be deposited into the accounts of 1MDB PetroSaudi Ltd, the fund’s JV company with PSI.
Ignoring the board’s directive, however, 1MDB’s management abided by the instructions of PSI’s law firm instead, and transferred the money in separate sums of US$300 million to the JV firm’s Swiss-based JP Morgan account and US$700 million to a company called Good Star Ltd, which belonged to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.
Shafee: Your officers must be working overnight to approve this deal that others struggled [to get].
Zeti: That is not correct. There were at least six other approvals. There were at least six other cases, including international corporations, where approval was given within the day. It was not unprecedented.
Zeti was the BNM governor from 2000 to 2016, and she will continue being re-examined by Shafee when the trial continues later on Tuesday.
The Edge is covering the trial live here.
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