KUALA LUMPUR: Former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi told the High Court today that he had carried out instructions given by fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, because he believed they were coming from Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.
To this, Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said it contradicted the prosecution’s case that former prime minister Najib acted as the ‘shadow director’ of the sovereign wealth fund.
Questioned by Muhammad Shafee, the 50-year-old witness said that he was not involved in the major decision-making process of the six conversions and repatriating 1MDB’s investment transaction, but rather was given directives by 1MDB’s lawyer Jasmine Loo and Jho Low himself.
The ninth prosecution witness said he acted on instructions and action plans given by Jho Low as he believed that the instructions were coming straight from Najib.
Muhammad Shafee: I am very perplexed by this. Contrary to the prosecution’s case, what you have testified today is that Jho Low is the shadow director of 1MDB, and not my client. Everything Jho Low said, you carried it out.
Shahrol Azral: Because I believed that he was acting on behalf of the shareholder.
Muhammad Shafee: But you never checked with the shareholder.
Shahrol Azral: There were one or two occasions.
Muhammad Shafee: One or two, but many things you didn’t check.
To another question by the counsel, Shahrol Azral said there was no time to call for a board meeting regarding the conversion of the 1MDB-PSI joint-venture Murabaha notes into equity.
“At the same time, Jho Low and Jasmine were rushing it, so I just went along,“ said the witness.
Muhammad Shafee: The reason why you were in a hurry was because you needed to conclude it before the financial year-end. You had to restructure because otherwise you had to justify the value of the Murabaha notes. It was like a magic show. Who was behind this?
Shahrol Azral: Jho Low.
Muhammad Shafee: So, it wasn’t Datuk Seri Najib. The whole board was hoodwinked, and you were a part of this. You knew this was happening.
Shahrol Azral: Disagree.
When asked, “are you now satisfied this was a mechanism to hoodwink the board into believing their investment is still good?” Shahrol Azral replied, “in hindsight, yes.”
Muhammad Shafee: I suggested that if the whole 1MDB board could be hoodwinked, then the same may have happened to Najib. Can the prime minister or finance minister be in a position to be wiser than the board?
Shahrol Azral: I cannot comment as I don’t know if the prime minister or finance minister had access to information at the time.
Najib, 67, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.
The trial was heard before High Court Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah with senior deputy public prosecutor and former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram leading the prosecution. - Bernama