Former 1MDB CEO did not blame Najib over scandal, court hears

(The Star) – A witness told the High Court that he did not blame former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over the scandal involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi said this when asked if he, like Najib, was conned by fugitive financier Low Taek Jho – better known as Jho Low – whom he had explicitly trusted.

Asked if he could weigh in whether or not Najib was a culprit in the conspiracy, Shahrol however replied that it was not his place to do so.

During cross examination Monday (Oct 7), Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah highlighted Shahrol’s connection to Jho Low, who had headhunted him to join a project that eventually became 1MDB’s precursor, the Terengganu Investment Authority Bhd (TIA).

Shahrol said he had been approached by Jho Low in 2007 to work together on a fund, but only got concrete details in March 2009.

Moving from his previous consulting company, Accenture Malaysia to 1MDB, his pay shot up from RM30,000 to RM80,000. He also got a sign up bonus of RM160,000.

Asked about the pay bump, Shahrol said he might actually have lost money, disposing his stocks in Accenture as the stocks were worth RM8 per unit, but are now worth over RM18 per unit.

“Ada rugi lah (there was some loss),” he said, with a chuckle.

Shafee also repeatedly asked whether Najib could be involved with TIA’s decisions – like hiring American investment firm Goldman Sachs Group, Inc – when he supposedly only got involved in its later iteration, 1MDB.

Shahrol replied that the documents he read suggested Najib had no involvement in weighing Goldman Sachs as a candidate, though he had no personal knowledge of Najib’s involvement in TIA.

Najib, 66, faces 25 charges in total – four for abuse of power that allegedly brought him financial benefit to the tune of RM2.3bil; and 21 for money laundering involving the same amount of money.

He faces imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the gratification if found guilty.

The trial continues before High Court judge Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah.