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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 — Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi asserted that he had been discouraged from inquiring about matters not under his purview while at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), when testifying at the High Court today.
Testifying against Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the latter’s 1MDB corruption trial, Shahrol also said he often did not dispute instructions or talking points fugitive financier Low Taek Jho or Jho Low had given him.
Shahrol explained that Low’s talking points or instructions were often seen as an extension of Najib’s, claiming that the former prime minister had “delegated” the representation of his interests to Low.
Shahrol was responding to questions by lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah who asked why he did not verify Low’s instruction and talking points with Najib.
Shahrol: It is difficult to pinpoint whether there were any instructions at all, but I can say throughout my tenure as CEO from 2009 to 2013, I have always felt that I was discouraged from being too busybody.
Shafee: Are you saying as CEO you cannot enquire on matters that affect 1MDB directly?
Shahrol: I was discouraged from enquiring items beyond talking points given to me.
Shafee: If what you are saying is indeed true, then these actions were done by Jho Low himself
Earlier, Shahrol explained that he did not ask questions beyond his direct responsibility as everyone within the company had worked in their own “silos”
This response irritated Shafee who then pressed Shahrol further on his supposed failure in corroborating Low’s instructions, particularly on the joint venture with PetroSaudi International Ltd and why it was done in a hurry.
He asked Shahrol why the deal was signed just a month after it was presented to the 1MDB board of directors in August 2009.
PSI and 1MDB entered the abortive joint venture in 2012 for which the Malaysian firm still “paid” the former US$700 million (RM2.9 billion), except that the sum went to one Good Star Ltd, a firm that investigators say whose main beneficiary is Low.
Former prime minister 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.
Shafee then asked Shahrol whether Najib or any other 1MDB senior management officials had directly told him not to ask questions beyond his purview, to which he said they had not.
Last month, Shahrol revealed in court that Low was Najib’s orchestrator and had ensured that all working groups in 1MDB were “working in a silo” and practised a “need-to-know basis” work culture.
Shahrol also said Low prefer to work in strict confidentiality and often communicated with him and other 1MDB senior officials through Blackberry Messenger (BBM) and had even asked to delete confidential emails on the sovereign wealth firm.