by BERNAMA/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
Former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi (picture) revealed in the High Court here today that Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, was close to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and had access to meet Najib either at his home in Jalan Langgak Duta here or at Sri Satria Putrajaya, the official residence of the deputy prime minister.
Shahrol Azral, 49, said he first found out of Jho Low’s close relationship with Najib – who was then deputy prime minister (DPM) and finance minister – when he joined the Terengganu Investment Authority Berhad (TIA) in 2009.
The ninth prosecution witness said this was based on certain factors, such as any actions by Jho Low in outlining directives from Najib would be agreed to and approved by Najib himself.
He said he was convinced that Najib had given Jho Low the mandate to plan and organise the operations of TIA and 1MDB from behind the scenes through talking points and action plans.
“I see him as the facilitator between The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin (at that time) and Datuk Seri Najib who was representing the Federal Government. However, he (Jho Low) was an important person to Datuk Seri Najib and had taken care of Datuk Seri Najib’s interests from the beginning.
“I saw that he had direct access to Datuk Seri Najib. For example, during TIA’s BOD (board of directors) meeting he could contact Datuk Seri Najib by phone for advice and guidance, and Jho Low had access to meet with Datuk Seri Najib at his house either at Jalan Langgak Duta in Kuala Lumpur or at Sri Satria Putrajaya, which is the official residence of the DPM.
“For example, in March 2009, Jho Low had asked me to meet with Mubadala Petroleum’s CEO at the official residence of Datuk Seri Najib in Sri Satria. At that time, I clearly noticed that Jho Low had direct access to Datuk Seri Najib,” he said when reading his witness statement.
He said when he was appointed as the director and CEO of TIA, he had been informed by Jho Low and Casey Tang, who was the executive director of TIA, that during the formation of the company, there was a proposal for the Federal Government to issue a Government Guarantee (GG) to raise funds for TIA and that the Terengganu State Government would inject RM6 billion in funds through securitisation of oil royalties.
He said at the time he joined the TIA, Jho Low and Tang had told him that the prime minister’s role was to represent the Federal Government in safeguarding the interests of the Federal Government.
Shahrol Azhar, was appointed the CEO of TIA on March 23, 2009, said that Jho Low had proposed his name to Tuanku Mizan – who was then TIA chairman – to be appointed as one of the directors and CEO of TIA.
“After I met with His Majesty, I was informed that my appointment as CEO and director of TIA had been consented to by His Majesty.
“I joined the TIA a little after its establishment, and I was not involved in the early stages of its formation. After joining TIA, I did some self-study to get to know the company better by reading about its background and making inquiries with the people who were already there.
“From my research, I learned that TIA was set up on Feb 27, 2009, with an initial capital of RM2,” he said, adding that Jho Low was appointed TIA advisor on April 8, 2009.
The key prosecution witness said the idea of establishing the TIA was initiated by Tuanku Mizan and TIA advisor, Jho Low.
He said this was done following a visit to the wholly-owned investment arm of Abu Dhabi, Mubadala, in the UAE, where Tuanku Mizan got the idea of establishing a similar sovereign wealth fund at home.
“This fact only became known to me through conversations with Jho Low at the beginning of my participation in TIA,” he said.
He said he met Jho Low around 2007, while working as an analyst at consulting firm Andersen Consulting, which was then known as Accenture.
“While working at Accenture, I had a client I knew as Low Taek Jho. He was also known as Jho Low. I first met him around 2007. At that time, he was the Managing Director at UBG.
“Our office was in the same building at Tower 2, Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur. We got to know each other when Jho Low asked my company to set up an investment system for his firm,” he said.
The witness said that at the end of 2008, Jho Low had contacted him, saying he was managing a fund involving a Government body, and was also setting up a new fund.
“After that, I was not contacted by Jho Low until mid-March 2009, when Jho Low asked me if I agreed to join the TIA, a sovereign wealth fund set up to provide long-term economic development for the state of Terengganu, and sustaining the socio-economy of the people of Terengganu in general,” he said.
Najib, 66, is facing four charges of having used his positions to obtain gratification totalling RM2.3 billion in 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money.
The Pekan MP allegedly committed the four offences at AmIslamic Bank Berhad, Jalan Raja Chulan branch, Bukit Ceylon here between Feb 24, 2011, and Dec 19, 2014, and the 21 charges, between March 22, 2013, and Aug 30, 2013, at the same place.
The trial before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues.