1MDB trial: Ex-CEO Shahrol admits Najib not briefed on deal with Aabar BVI

Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex August 3, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex August 3, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib might not have the full picture when he signed a shareholder resolution of a joint venture between 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and British Virgin Islands-based Aabar Investments PJS Ltd (Aabar BVI) in 2012, the High Court heard today.

Testifying as the prosecution’s ninth witness in the main 1MDB trial today, former CEO of the state-owned investment company Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi admitted that he had not briefed Najib on the exact details on the strategic initiatives for both firms to develop the Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD) or Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) as it is now known.

Cross-examined by Najib’s lawyer, Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed, Shahrol said he had not briefed Najib or anyone from the Ministry of Finance at the time on the finer details of the joint venture proposal wuh 1MDB by Aabar BVI.

Wan Aizuddin then asked Shahrol if the omission of the proposal’s term sheet, as well as a lack of briefing on the terms of the joint venture (JV), was a willful attempt to mislead the then prime minister and defraud 1MDB.

Wan Aizuddin: I put it to you, Datuk Shahrol, the omission of the term sheet from the shareholder and the lack of briefing before the shareholder was purposeful to make the terms of the JV unclear and ambiguous not to raise any suspicions from the minister of finance, to defraud 1MDB of millions of ringgit.

Shahrol: Disagree.

Shahrol was pressed to answer the defence lawyer as to whether Najib could have been misled as he had lacked the necessary information, but declined, saying he did not know what the then PM knew at that time.

Wan Aizuddin also questioned Shahrol on the role of Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) Khadem Al Qubaisi in the proposed JV.

Kadem was listed as an executive for Aabar BVI, described in the High Court as a “fake firm” allegedly under the control of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low.

Shahrol was also asked to verify several letters Khadem sent 1MDB on the JV, including one addressed to Najib, stating the positive benefits of a strategic alliance between the two firms.

When asked about the “premeditated instrument” used to defraud 1MDB, Shahrol said he cannot comment on his counterpart’s motivation at the time.

Under cross-examination by the defence, Shahrol acknowledged that Khadem played a part in defrauding 1MDB.

Khadem was sentenced to prison for 15 years in June 2019, while US citizen Mohammed Badawy Al Husseiny, who ran a subsidiary of International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) was sentenced to 10 years’ jail after being found guilty of financial crimes in the UAE.

The two men were ordered to pay about US$336 million (RM1.4 billion), half to IPIC in what was described as a “victim company” and half as a penalty, according to the Abu Dhabi criminal court.


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