KUALA LUMPUR: French business magnate Bernard Arnault was appointed as a member of Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) Bhd’s board of advisers upon the approval of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the High Court heard.
Former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, 49, said Arnault’s name was suggested by fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, or better known as Jho Low.
The Frenchman is the chairman and chief executive of luxury goods company LVMH Moet Hennessy and was named Europe’s richest man by Forbes.
“The name (Arnault) came from Jho; he told me Najib had agreed to it when we went through the appointment letters and confirmations during a board of directors meeting, ” Shahrol said here yesterday.
Shahrol, who was under a cross-examination by Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, however, said he did not confirm the matter with Najib.
Shafee earlier referred the witness to a document with a list of individuals who should sit on TIA’s international board of advisers.
They were Mubadala Development CEO Khaldoon Khalifa Al-Mubarak, former ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Lee Raymond, former General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, former Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Arnault.
Shahrol said Khaldoon, Arnault, CITIC Group chairman Chang Zhenming and former Qatari prime minister Sheik Hamad Jassim Jabar Al-Thani were appointed to the international board of directors.
The court also heard that Najib did not quite like the acronym “MIB”, which stood for Malaysian Investment Bhd, and this resulted in TIA’s name changed to “1MDB” for 1Malaysia Development Bhd, months after its inception in 2009.
He said prior to the name change, Low suggested to the 1MDB board of directors to follow the Mubadala Group of Abu Dhabi template as close as possible.
“We explored a few alternatives and that was how we came up with the name ‘MDB’, as it was pretty close to Mubadala, ” he added.
Shafee then asked if Najib had an opinion on the change of name and the witness said Najib was interested in the details but this was solely based on what Low had told him about Najib.
“I was instructed to formalise this and in order to do that I needed to write a letter, put it in black and white to get it done, ” he said.
Shafee then referred the witness to a document and Shahrol confirmed it was the resolution to change TIA’s name.
Shafee: So the name is now changed to 1MDB?
Shafee: As of what date?
Shahrol: It was passed at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) held on Sept 4,2009.
Najib, 66, faces 25 charges in total – four for abuse of power that allegedly brought him financial benefit to the tune of RM2.3bil and 21 for money laundering involving the same amount of money.
He faces imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the gratification if found guilty.
The hearing continues before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah on Monday.
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