Najib's lead counsel says 1MDB top management a 'bunch of idiots' during cross-examination of former CEO

KUALA LUMPUR: The former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) CEO was rebuked by Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lead counsel, who called the top management of the sovereign wealth fund “a bunch of idiots” for its failure to check the legitimacy of a company it went into business with.

Lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah used the strong words during his cross-examination of Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi here during Najib’s 1MDB trial involving RM2.28bil at the High Court on Tuesday (Aug 4).

Shahrol had admitted that the management was “duped” to disburse monies to Aabar Investments PJS Ltd (Aabar BVI), which was revealed to be the fake Aabar and not the same as Aabar Investment PJS, which is the actual subsidiary of International PetroIeum Investment Company (IPIC).

The court had heard that Aabar BVI was set up by fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho - better known as Jho Low - in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and the company was used to misrepresent the other Aabar Investment PJS.

Shafee suggested that 1MDB was run by “a bunch of idiots” as the company had disbursed close to US$600mil to the fake Aabar for the development of TRX business district in 2012.

Shafee asked the witness if anybody from 1MDB had conducted due diligence to check if the two Aabars were related, to which Shahrol replied: “No”.

The witness explained that at that time, Aabar BVI was thought to be a subsidiary of Aabar Investments PJS as they had the same directors; Khadem al-Qubaisi and Mohamed Badawy al-Hussainy.

“We did not do any due diligence report on the company, as I only conducted a desktop research on IPIC’s background, ” Shahrol said.

Shafee then referred to the fake Aabar as “small Aabar” and the real Aabar as “big Aabar” and said 1MDB had once again fallen into “the cobra pits” in its investment dealings.

Shafee: Do you notice that we are moving in many cobra pits... 1MDB must be run by a bunch of idiots to walk through these pits.

Shahrol: I reserve my comment.

Najib, 67, is facing 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 before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues Wednesday (Aug 5).

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