1MDB: Witness refutes defence suggestion Jho Low hatched embezzlement plan overseas

Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi. -filepic

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court was told by the defence that fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho and several other figures met and devised a plan to embezzle money from troubled sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

The defence in the 1MDB trial involving former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak suggested that this plan was concocted in a meeting held outside of Malaysia.

Apart from Low, or better known as Jho Low, the meeting was allegedly attended by ex-Goldman Sachs bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng, 1MBD’s deputy chief financial officer Terence Geh and general counsel Jasmine Loo as well as former CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi.

Najib’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed said the plan was to embezzle the monies with the assistance of Goldman Sachs, an investment management firm, without the knowledge of 1MDB’s board of directors and particularly Najib.

Shahrol, who is the ninth prosecution witness under cross-examination, however, denied the suggestion.

“I did not attend such a meeting, ” Shahrol said here on Thursday (July 16).

Wan Aizuddin: So you disagree?

Shahrol: I disagree.

Wan Aizuddin: In order to embezzle with the assistance of Goldman Sachs, you were tasked by Jho Low and Ng to ensure that Goldman Sachs was appointed as the financial advisor for 1MDB.

Shahrol: I disagree.

Wan Aizuddin: I put it to you, that you had actively supported all of the Goldman Sachs proposals in all of the board of directors meetings, including the overpriced power plant operator Tanjong Energy Holdings Sdn Bhd acquisition.

Shahrol: I disagree.

(Goldman Sachs was appointed to represent 1MDB in February 2012 in the acquisition of Tanjong Energy with a 0.5% fee from the bid price if the acquisition – worth RM10.6bil – succeeds.)

Shahrol also disagreed with the suggestion that he participated in the plan because he was promised “bribes and kickbacks” from Low.

Earlier, Wan Aizuddin referred the witness to a meeting minutes of 1MDB’s previous incarnation, Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) as it was then known.

According to the minutes, the palace raised questions about Low in a meeting that Shahrol attended.

Wan Aizuddin: The palace was worried that Jho Low would misuse the palace name. Even if you believe Jho Low was working at the company’s best interest, wouldn’t this trigger your suspicion?

Shahrol: Jho Low had said that this issue would come up, so it didn't trigger any suspicion in my mind.

Wan Aizuddin: This is unbelievable. You were dealing with Istana Negara yet you still choose to believe Jho Low out of all people?

Shahrol: Yes.

Najib, 67, faces four charges of abusing his position to obtain gratification totalling RM2.28bil in 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money.

The hearing continues on Friday (July 17) before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah.

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