By Aathi Shankar
Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi has attempted to portray himself as “an innocent victim” in Datuk Seri Najib Razak corruption trial pertaining to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The former 1MDB chief executive officer (CEO) has just finished reading out his 270-page long witness statement for trial before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah at the Kuala Lumpur High Court today, Tuesday, October 1, 2019.
Throughout his statement, punctuated a few times by prosecution questions under examination-in-chief, the 9th witness had claimed that he took instructions from the fugitive businessman, Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.
Jho Low was not a 1MDB official neither he was a government minister in charge of the state wealth fund.
But 1MDB CEO took instructions from Jho Low!
The reason was that he assumed that Jho Low’s instructions were actually from Najib, then the prime minister, finance minister and chief of 1MDB’s panel of advisors.
But then Shahrol Azral never cross-checked Jho Low’s instructions with Najib.
Neither Shahrol Azral had sought clarification from Najib on whether or not to follow Jho Low’s instructions.
Najib too had never ever told 1MDB CEO to follow Jho Low’s instructions.
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.
Today, the 16th hearing day of the trial, Shahrol Azral testified that he was coached by several Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmakers on “what to tell and not to tell” at the 1MDB inquiry conducted by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
He was briefed and guided by Jho Low on what should be his talking points at the inquiry, generally to downplay Najib’s and Jho Low’s involvement in 1MDB and to treat all negative news on 1MDB as political attacks against Najib.
Jho Low had apparently arranged a meeting between him and several other PAC members, including Datuk Seri Rahman Dahlan, prior to a hearing in 2010.
Prior to a PAC hearing in 2015, Shahrol claimed that a briefing was held at the home of Datuk Seri Ahmad Farid Ridzuan, who was at that time in charge of Najib’s image branding.
He testified that then PAC chief Datuk Seri Hassan Ariffin was present at the meeting.
At the height of the 1MDB controversy, Shahrol Azral had avoided phone calls from Najib and, in one phone conversation that took place, he had been impolite to the former premier.
“I knew what Najib was asking and I know the answers,” he replied to a question by lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram during the examination-in-chief.
But, strangely though, throughout his witness statement, Shahrol Azral had claimed to know nothing about 1MDB undertakings.
He claimed that likes of Jho Low and, then 1MDB’s general counsel Jasmine Loo Ai Swan and deputy chief financial officer Terence Geh Choh Heng were more knowledgeable and well informed about 1MDB activities.
In other words, Shahrol is saying that he was a mere puppet and knew nothing about 1MDB that he headed.
He may have attempted to blame others over his own faults to underpin the prosecution agenda to portray Jho Low as Najib’s “alter ego and mirror image.”
But his testimony has actually made him liable for professional misconduct and negligence under the company laws.