Jho Low said ‘1Malaysia’ in 1MDB’s name came from Najib, ex-CEO claims

The 1Malaysia concept was first mentioned by Najib in early June 2009, about two months after he became prime minister. — Reuters pic
The 1Malaysia concept was first mentioned by Najib in early June 2009, about two months after he became prime minister. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak expressly wanted Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) Berhad to be renamed 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) when he was prime minister, the company’s former CEO said.

Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, who was CEO for both TIA and 1MDB, today said businessman Low Taek Jho had conveyed the information that Najib wanted the name over that of Malaysia Development Bhd (MDB).

“The MDB was from us, but 1Malaysia part, Jho said that came from Datuk Seri Najib,” he told the court during Najib’s corruption trial over 1MDB funds.

The 1Malaysia concept was first mentioned by Najib in early June 2009, about two months after he became prime minister.

The catchphrase had been heavily used during his tenure for various government programmes including affordable housing, grocery stores and clinics but was discontinued after Pakatan Harapan came into power last year.

Earlier today, Shahrol had confirmed his June 25, 2009 letter as TIA CEO to Najib, where it was proposed that TIA be renamed as MDB.

Shahrol said that he was told by Low then that Najib had agreed for the Terengganu state government’s TIA to be taken over by the federal government to eventually become 1MDB.

“Jho Low told me that Datuk Seri Najib had agreed,” Shahrol said.

Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah then asked: “Allegedly he had agreed. This is what Jho Low told you?”

Shahrol then replied: “Yes, agreed for federalisation, transformation of TIA to 1MDB, and that I needed to write a letter copied to Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, to get the ball moving, so to speak.”

Shahrol later said he was instructed to write the letter to formalise previous discussions to turn TIA into a company owned by the federal government, saying: “So this was in a way to get the ball moving, put it down in black and white so that it gets done.”

Shafee previously sought to cast as hearsay Shahrol’s citation of remarks Low made about Najib.

When asked who came up with the idea of changing TIA’s name to MDB after the federalisation process, Shahrol said that Low had mooted the example of Abu Dhabi firm Mubadala Development Company.

“After discussion with Jho, I think we explored a few alternatives and Jho had suggested that we followed the Mubadala template, as close as possible Mubadala Development Company, so he said MDB would be very close,” Shahrol said, noting that the acronym for Abu Dhabi’s firm is MDC.

When asked if MDB came from him and Low, Shahrol said that it was actually a “team” that was exploring various new names for TIA, including the proposed Malaysia Investment Berhad (MIB) which Najib purportedly did not like.

Last month, Shahrol had testified that the TIA company secretary was asked to check several proposed names such as 1Malaysia Development Berhad, MDB Wealth Berhad, Malaysia Development Berhad and Malaysia Wealth and Capital Creation Berhad, prior to the company’s new name being finalised.

Having said that the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) did not allow these names due to the use of restricted words, Shahrol had also previously said that Najib had given the company a letter of support to allow 1MDB’s registration by SSM.

TIA’s board of directors issued a September 4, 2009 resolution to change the name of the company to 1MDB, with SSM then issuing a letter on September 25, 2009 to notify the successful change in name.

After the federalisation of TIA, the company 1MDB became fully owned by the Finance Ministry via the Minister of Finance (MOF) Incorporated.

Shahrol is the ninth prosecution witness in Najib’s trial, which is being heard before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.

The hearing ended earlier and did not continue after the usual lunch break as Shahrol is unwell today.

The trial will resume next Monday, with Shafee to continue to cross-examine Shahrol.

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.

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