1MDB ex-CEO becomes suspicious of Jho Low when probe begins

KUALA LUMPUR: Former chief executive officer of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi (pix) told the High Court here today that he became suspicious of the fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low after the authorities started investigating the 1MDB case in 2015.

Testifying in former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s trial involving 1MDB funds, Shahrol, 49, said he became suspicious about Jho Low when he was about to be shown the flows of the money involved, during the recording of his statement.

“I don’t recall whether it was shown by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) or by the police ... it was probably around the end of the year (2015),” he said when cross-examined by Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah on the 17th day of the trial.

Najib was charged with four counts of using his position to obtain RM2.3 billion bribe in the 1MDB fund and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same money.

The 9th prosecution witness also described Jho Low as a “late person” capable of understanding and getting things done very quickly.

“He articulated things well and the quality of a discussion is accurately high as he could understand things quickly,” he said when asked by Shafee to describe Jho Low’s character.

Explaining about his first contact with Jho Low in 2007, the witness said that he received an SMS from Jho Low saying that he (Jho Low) wanted to do something with his company, UBG (Utama Banking Group).

“As the managing director of UBG, he asked me to drop by his office to discuss. He got my number from a mutual friend, who is my roommate at Standford University, Azran.

“I then met with Jho Low to find out what he wanted to do, and what he needed to be done with Accenture,” he said.

On Sept 23, Shahrol Azral told the High Court that he met with Jho Low in 2007 while working as an analyst at Andersen Consulting firm, which was then known as Accenture.

Asked by Shafee on why Jho Low chose him as a consultant for his company, the witness said Jho Low pegged him as “a person who is not a busybody”.

“What I intended to convey at the time was that Jho Low pegged me as someone who is ... I’m struggling to find the words here ... the word that came to my mind was ‘kepochi’, but busybody is more appropriate here,” he said.

Asked by Shafee whether Jho Low liked his character as he would just take instructions without knowing the ultimate journey, Shahrol replied, “Not quite. I just took enough information necessary to deliver the outcome as I understood it. Anything other than the outcome not relevant to the task at hand, I trusted other people to look at it”.

To another question, Shahrol said he was put under a travel ban by the Immigration Department of in connection with the 1MDB investigation.

“I made this assumption because I was part of a group of people, including former 1MBD directors and senior management, who were banned from travelling overseas,” he said, adding that the travel ban was to prevent people with information on the case from disappearing.

Muhammad Shafee: They (authorities) wanted to prevent you from disappearing.

Shahrol Azral: Yes.

The hearing before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues. — Bernama