Under fire for ‘hurried’ 1MDB-PSI deal, ex-CEO says wasn’t rushed ‘for fun’

Former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex October 16, 2019. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
Former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex October 16, 2019. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 — The joint venture between 1MDB and PetroSaudi International (PSI) had to be expedited to coincide with the visit Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince to Malaysia then, Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi told the High Court today.

Testifying against Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the latter’s 1MDB corruption trial, Shahrol, the company’s former chief executive, also explained that the former prime minister wanted the JV to be done quickly.

Shahrol claimed fugitive financier Low Taek Jho or Jho Low stressed both reasons to him.

Lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah asked Shahrol today why the agreement had to be signed on September 28, 2009, only a month after it was brought to the attention of 1MDB board of directors.

Shafee then submitted the agreement letter that stated PSI only wanted to take advantage of “prized assets” or investment within the country.

Shahrol: The plan was to have the crown prince to come and they wanted the agreement to be witnessed by the crown prince.

Shafee: Was that the only reason?

Shahrol: I was under the thinking at the time that this was strictly under Article 117 which involves national policy and national finances and therefore it is under the purview of the prime minister and it was clear to me that this is what the prime minister wanted.

Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex October 16, 2019. ― Picture  by Hari Anggara
Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex October 16, 2019. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

Shafee: Is there any other reason? Because these two reasons which you provided were not stated in this letter. The only reason that PSI gave was to capture the prized assets given the current global economic condition. But your reasons are different.

Shahrol: But the letter was addressed to Datuk Seri Najib.

Shafee: It doesn’t matter, Datuk Shahrol, surely they cannot be speaking in forked tongues, speaking to Datuk Seri Najib with one reason and 1MDB with something else; this is about 1MDB!

Shahrol: However, the reasons came up, it cannot be mutually exclusive by saying one exclude doesn’t exclude the other. It could be all of the above.

So I think the fact that it was rushed ‘suka suka’ would be very incorrect.

Shafee: My take is not ‘suka-suka’. You have got a plan, you and Jho Low have got a plan. But there is a reason why I am trying to ask you, so you provided me with the reason. So these reasons are not the reasons?

Shahrol: No, I didn’t say this was not the reason. I say these reasons may not be mutually exclusive.

Last month, Shahrol said that Najib had met with the late King Abdullah and both leaders agreed to form a JV worth US$2.5 billion for investment.  

Shahrol also said Low had told him that Najib had mooted the idea during his holiday in the south of France in August 2008, where the former prime minister had met with Saudi’s Prince Turki Abdullah.

The JV would see 1MDB inject US$1 billion cash and PSI inject US$1.5 billion assets into the joint-venture company and was to be finalised by or before September 28, 2009.

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