Najib had ultimate power over 1MDB, TIA: Ex CEO

Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak had ultimate power in making decisions involving the financial affairs of 1MDB and Terengganu Investment Authorities Berhad (TIA), the High Court was told yesterday.

(Bernama) – Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, 49, the former chief executive officer (CEO) of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and TIA, said Najib as the number one person in Malaysia at the time, was also the highest decision-maker especially involving large investments, funds and national interest.

It was also in accordance with Article 117 in TIA’s Memorandum and Articles of Association (M&A) which stated that any such action required the written permission of the Prime Minister, said the ninth and a key prosecution witness on the 12th day of Najib’s 1MDB trial.

He said this during the examination-in-chief by senior deputy public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, in reference to 1MDB’s M&A which was amended and accepted at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on Aug 11, 2009.

Najib, 66, faces four charges of abusing his position to corruptly obtain RM2.3 billion from 1MDB and 21 money laundering charges involving the same funds.

The witness said 1MDB’s M&A had been prepared based on discussions between several individuals including himself and fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low during the early stages of the TIA.

“My officer Zahid Taib together with a lawyer made the changes in 1MDB’s M&A on Aug 11, 2009, based on input from one 1MDB executive director Casey Tang, and Jho Low,” he said.

Earlier, Shahrol Azral said the amendments in the M&A confirmed that the highest authority in 1MDB was the Prime Minister who was Najib, besides being necessarily made for the Federal Government’s acquisition of TIA through the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOF Inc).

“I also remember Jho Low instructing to change the words ‘Federal Government of Malaysia’ to ‘Prime Minister’ in the M&A amendment as, according to Jho Low, Datuk Seri Najib wanted to ensure that there would be no ambiguity over 1MDB’s power base, which is, the Prime Minister of Malaysia alone.

“The role of Datuk Seri Najib as Prime Minister, Finance Minister and 1MDB Advisory Board chairman also included power to appoint and dismiss the board of directors as well as senior management such as CEO, chief financial officer and chief information officer, as provided for in Article 117 of the M&A,” he said.

When questioned by Sri Ram on whether the accused had raised any issues regarding Article 117, the witness said Najib had not, and that Najib was involved in 1MDB’s affairs as his signature was on documents involving 1MDB.

Shahrol Azrol added that the amendment to the article also meant that every 1MDB Advisory Board member was appointed by its chairman who was also the prime minister.

“The Advisory Board was responsible for advising on investments and business affairs of 1MDB. Termination and appointment of directors and senior management of 1MDB must first get the written approval of the prime minister.

“Throughout my tenure as CEO and director of TIA and 1MDB, I always had mandate and feedback from Datuk Seri Najib himself as the Advisory Board chairman, Prime Minister and Finance Minister,“ he said.

To Sri Ram’s question on whether the accused would place the blame on the board of directors if anything went wrong with 1MDB investments, Shahrol Azral replied in the negative.

Shahrol Azral: According to the M&A, the board must have written approval from the Prime Minister for any investment decision. Therefore, everything that it did was in alignment with the wishes of the PM, Finance Minister and board of directors of 1MDB.

Sri Ram: I asked you a question just now, is it the board of directors’ fault?

Shahrol Azral: Disagree

Najib who is also Pekan MP, is alleged to have committed the first four offences at the Jalan Raja Chulan branch of AmIslamic Bank Berhad between Feb 24, 2011 and Dec 19, 2014, and the money laundering offences, at the same place between March 22, 2013 and Aug 30, 2013.

The hearing before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues today.