1MDB ex-CEO: Jho Low claimed Saudi royals wanted to donate US$100m, gave uncashed cheques

Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court September 26, 2019.— Picture by Firdaus Latif
Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court September 26, 2019.— Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 — Businessman Low Taek Jho had in 2010 handed over four cheques for 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to hold on to, in expectation of an alleged intended US$100 million donation from the Saudi royal family, the High Court heard today.

1MDB’s former CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi today confirmed having received the four cheques from Low in September 2010.

“I received these cheques from Jho Low. He had instructed me to hold on to these cheques and don’t do anything with them, until he gives the go ahead.

“There were no further instructions from him on these, so at the end of my tenure as CEO, I passed these cheques to Finance for safekeeping,” Shahrol said during Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s corruption trial over 1MDB funds.

Shahrol had been CEO of 1MDB from 2009 until early 2013.

When asked by lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram about the context of Low handing over the cheques, Shahrol said that it was during the time when 1MDB’s US$1 billion stake in a joint venture with PetroSaudi International Ltd (PSI) was being converted into an investment via loans to PSI.

“The context was at the PSI joint venture in September 2009 and at around the time when we converted the equity in the joint venture to the Murabahah notes, Jho had informed me that the Saudis, the Saudi royal family wanted to donate US$100 million to Yayasan 1MDB.

“I remember he was asking me what to make the cheques out to and I remember making enquiries to AmBank on what would be the right name to put on the cheques. So around September, as per the dates on the cheques, Jho passed me these cheques,” Shahrol said.

Former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi arrives at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex September 26, 2019. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif
Former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi arrives at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex September 26, 2019. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

Shahrol said he never cashed in the cheques as he did not receive any instructions to do so, also confirming that he did not know whose signature appeared on the cheques.

Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah then voiced his objections to both the cheques and the instructions allegedly given by Low to Shahrol, arguing that this amounted to hearsay.

High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah had previously said he will rule on the issue of hearsay raised by Shafee at the end of the trial.

Further details of the four cheques such as the recipient named, the individual amount and date for each cheques were not read out in court today.

Najib’s ongoing 1MDB trial involves 25 criminal charges — four counts of abusing his position for his own financial benefit totalling almost RM2.3 billion allegedly originating from 1MDB and the resulting 21 counts of money-laundering.

Today is day 14 of the trial, and Shahrol who is the ninth prosecution witness will resume his testimony next Monday.

At the start of the trial, the prosecution had said it will show evidence to prove that Najib had allegedly together with his “mirror image” Low tried to cover his tracks after the 1MDB scandal broke in 2015, where alleged sham documents including four uncashed cheques for US$25 million each from a purported Arab donor were produced to pretend a donation from an Arab prince. (It is not known if these cheques are related to the four cheques shown in court today).

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