By Aathi Shankar
Fugitive businessman Jho Low had drafted contents of official letters for Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi to successfully prevent an audit on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in 2010.
1MDB ex-chief executive officer Shahrol Azral had only formalised and signed the letters after Jho Low, whose real name is Low Taek Jho, had prepared the contents.
Shahrol Azral submitted the letters in January 2010 to the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the treasury department to successfully stop the Auditor-General from carrying out a financial audit over 1MDB.
He claimed that Jho Low had called and informed him that then Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak wanted 1MDB to evade the audition, hence the letters.
“Because I signed the letters, I hold the responsibility,” the 9th prosecution witness testified on the 21st hearing day of the Najib-1MDB Trial before Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Colin Lawrence Sequerah on Monday, October 14, 2019.
The 1MDB letters were submitted following a Federal Cabinet decision a month earlier to have 1MDB audited by the Auditor-General.
The Cabinet wanted the 1MDB audit to be done before the federal government pays the agreed RM1 million to the Terengganu government to formalise the transfer of Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) under the Menteri Besar Incorporated Terengganu (MBIT) to 1MDB under the Finance Ministry Incorporated (MOF Inc).
TIA was federalised to 1MDB in September 2009 following a request by then Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin of Terengganu.
The federal government had agreed to pay RM1 million to Terengganu government for MOF Inc to take up all shares of MBIT to finalise the federalisation process.
During the cross-examination today, the defence has suggested that Shahrol Azral had submitted the official letters to prevent the 1MDB audit from uncovering Jho Low’s financial manipulations.
Firstly, Jho Low-linked foreign companies, Aktis Capital Singapore Ltd, Hong Kong-based Country Group Securities Pcl made nearly RM500 million from Ambank’s Islamic Medium Term Note (ITMN) bonds issued by TIA in May 2009.
Country Group is controlled by Low’s father Tan Sri Larry Low Hock Peng.
Aktis Capital is said to have made some RM74.62 million by just purchasing and selling the IMTN bonds while Country Group made a whopping RM420 million.
TIA wanted to raise RM5 billion loan through the issuance of IMTN prior to its first business venture with Abu Dhabi-based PetroSaudi Ltd.
When Sultan Mizan later wanted to stop the issuance of the bonds after he got suspicious over Jho Low, it led to the federalisation of TIA to 1MDB.
1MDB had only received RM4.3 billion for the issuance of the RM5 billion bonds.
Secondly, 1MDB has transferred some USD700 million to finance a foreign investment with PetroSaudi Ltd, which was originally a TIA venture.
1MDB had transferred the money to Jho Low-linked Good Star Ltd BVI instead and, it was Shahrol, not Najib, who authorised the transfer.
However, Shahrol Azral, 49, as expected disagreed with the defence suggestion that he tried to cover up Jho Low’s manipulations by preventing the 1MDB audit.
Najib, 66, currently 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.