1MDB trial: Ex-CEO says Najib can’t be fully blamed for supposedly being conned by Jho Low

Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court October 7, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court October 7, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 — A witness in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) trial agreed with the defence that Datuk Seri Najib Razak cannot be fully blamed for supposedly being conned by fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, the High Court heard today.

Testifying against Najib in the latter’s 1MDB corruption trial, the firm’s former chief executive Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi said he too had complete trust in Low, better known as Jho Low, and 1MDB’s then-executive director of business development firm Casey Tang for business decisions on the sovereign wealth fund.

Najib’s lead defence counsel, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, then suggested to Shahrol that he cannot fully blame the former prime minister for allegedly being tricked by Low as he too was duped.

Shafee: You are CEO. If you had explicit and implicit trust in Jho Low, could you blame my client, prime minister, of having trusted in him? You yourself were conned.

Shahrol: No, I wouldn’t blame him.

Shahrol said he was not suspicious of Low and Tang’s character until the news of the 1MDB scandal broke out in 2015.

He said only then did he start to doubt Low’s character when he was shown documents by the police of money transfers made by the financier, related to the misappropriation of funds from 1MDB.

Prior to his employment with 1MDB’s predecessor, Terengganu Investment Authority, Shahrol was employed with business management firm, Accenture.

Shahrol explained that his first contact with Low in 2007 was when the latter had texted him, wishing to engage the services of Accenture.

At this time, Low was attached to the Utama Banking Group (UBG) and had produced a name card stating that he was a managing director with the bank, Shahrol said.

Shahrol then described Low as intelligent, articulated but often tardy during their initial meetings.

After completing a project with UBG, Shahrol said he occasionally kept in touch with Low as it was his responsibility with Accenture at the time to manage former clients for potential business opportunities.

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