By Aathi Shankar
Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak never told the 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) management to follow directives from fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho aka Jho Low.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court heard today, Tuesday, September 24, 2019, that Najib had never told former 1MDB chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi to pay heed to Jho Low’s orders.
“Datuk Seri Najib has never told me to follow Jho Low’s instructions,” testified Shahrol Azral, the 9th prosecution witness, before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah on the 12th day of the Najib-1MDB trial.
Shahrol’s testimony may have mocked lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram’s opening statement of the trial that “Jho Low was Najib’s alter ego and mirror image”.
Najib, 66, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion in the 1MDB fund and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.
The Pekan MP allegedly perpetrated the offence at the AmIslamic Bank Berhad Branch, Jalan Raja Chulan, Bukit Ceylon here between Feb 24,2011 and Dec 19,2014 while for all charges of money laundering was between March 22,2013 and Aug 30,2013, at the same place.
Earlier Shahrol testified that he was summoned to have a royal audience with then Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin at the Terengganu official city-palace located in Jalan Tun Razak, in Kuala Lumpur on May 22, 2009.
Shahrol was accompanied by another 1MDB director Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, who was also the SRC International’s former chairman, for the audience held after Friday prayers.
He testified that the King was ‘murka’ (angry) and had commanded him to suspend the execution of the Islamic Medium Term Note (IMTN) bonds issued by the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) to secure a RM5 billion bank loan from Ambank.
Shahrol said the King then commanded him to sign the director circular resolution to affect the suspension, which the former 1MDB CEO duly did.
Upon leaving the palace and acting on advice by Ismee, Shahrol has contacted and informed Jho Low about the King’s command.
According to Shahrol, Jho Low sounded shocked when he heard the news.
Jho Low then arranged a late evening meeting for Shahrol to meet and explain to Najib about the problems arising from the King’s unexpected command.
Jho Low was also present at the three-man meeting held at 8pm in Najib’s residence in Jalan Langgak Duta, Kuala Lumpur.
Shahrol testified that Najib and Jho Low did not speak to each other during the meeting.
Prior to the meeting, Shahrol has also contacted and told then 1MDB executive director Casey Tang to discuss with Ambank on the King’s command to suspend the issuance of the bonds.
Casey Tang has told Shahrol that the issuance of the bonds cannot be suspended as the loan deal was signed and sealed, and that part of the bonds had already been purchased during the book-building exercise.
It will be a breach of contract if the bonds were suspended.
All these were explained to Najib during the meeting.
“I told Najib that I did not know the reason why the King was angry
“Najib later told me ‘you go ahead, I will talk to Tuanku’,” testified Shahrol.
At this juncture, the prosecution, in a desperate attempt to show that Jho Low was Najib’s “alter ego and mirror image”, asked Shahrol on whether the former premier had ever told him to follow the fugitive businessman’s instructions.
The big “no” from Shahrol’s reply may have dealt a major blow to the prosecution’s effort.