1MDB-Tanore Trial Day 17: Defence to cross-examine ex-1MDB CEO

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 7): The cross-examination of former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, who is testifying against Datuk Seri Najib Razak as the ninth prosecution witness in the 1MDB-Tanore trial, is expected to commence today.

Najib’s lead attorney Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is expected to conduct the cross-examination, which may extend until next week.

In the meantime, Najib, who is currently a Member of Parliament (MP) for Pekan, will be missing out on the first day of the Dewan Rakyat sitting in Parliament, which resumes today.

It took Sharol six days to complete his 270-page witness statement, during which he testified how the decision-making in 1MDB was done when it conducted its business in 2009-2014.

The High Court was told that it was normal practice for 1MDB to borrow more than needed. In total, 1MDB raked in some RM30 billion worth of debt during Shahrol’s time as CEO, all of which are guaranteed by the Ministry of Finance (MoF).

Shahrol also testified in front of justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah of the alleged involvement of fugitive financier Low Taek Jho in the decision-making process, and the manner in which many of 1MDB’s investments were rushed by the fugitive financier.

According to Shahrol, investment decisions by 1MDB required the green light by Najib, who was then the chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisers; the Minister of Finance — who looks over MoF, 1MDB’s sole shareholder; and Malaysia’s Prime Minister.

The court was also told that under Najib’s instructions, 1MDB had to prioritise lopsided deals with Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi-based entities under the impression of government-to-goverment collaborations.

This was despite the fact that the now-beleaguered fund had its hands full with projects now known as the Bandar Malaysia and the Tun Razak Exchange.

The witness recalled several high-profile meetings that Najib attended, including the ‘matchmaking’ with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Craig Blankfein in New York in 2009, followng an introduction by Jho Low and prosecuted Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner.

Najib also attended a meeting with co-founder of Saudi Arabia-based PetrouSaudi Ltd (PSI), Prince Turki Abdullah, and its director Patrick Mahony in London back in 2011.

Shahrol claimed he attended both meetings with then-1MDB chairman Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin. Jho Low was also in attendance, he said.

However there were no minutes recorded for both meetings, he added, when responding to questions from public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram.

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1MDB went on to get Goldman Sachs’ service to issue three bonds totaling US$6.5 billion for its projects, for which it reportedly had to pay US$600 million in fees and commissions.

During 1MDB’s joint venture PSI, some US$830 billion were transferred to Good Star Ltd — now known as a company linked to Jho Low — under the impression that it was normal business conduct with PSI. 

Shahrol had testified that he approved the transactions because Jho Low informed him that Good Star was a unit of the Saudi firm.

In other occasions, a sum of US$1.225 billion that were supposed to be transferred Abu Dhabi   firm Aabar Investment PJS were transferred to a fake entity that carried a similar name. 

Shahrol had given the transactions the go-ahead ‘in good faith’ after being briefed by 1MDB officials Jasmine Loo and Terence Geh, as well as Goldman’s Leissner, he said.

The prosecution also underlined in the opening statement of the trial that another US$500 million is missing.

The Edge is bringing the proceedings live.

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