Shahrol Azral exposes key details about Najib’s participation and fugitive Jho Low
by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
DATUK Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s corruption and money-laundering trial related to the scandalous 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) shifted into high gear last week as the prosecution’s star witness revealed more details about the firm and its operation.
Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi (picture) read out his 270-page witness statement.
His statement exposed key details about Najib’s participation and fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low. Other names had also been dragged into the trial including Prince Turki Abdullah, son of then-Saudi Arabia monarch late King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud and the mysterious character Patrick Mahony.
Najib’s defence team had demolished the revelations as hearsay, could not be substantiated and Jho Low should be brought back and put on the stand.
Shahrol Azral is 1MDB’s first CEO. He knew what had transpired from the early days of Terengganu Investment Authority Bhd, which later became 1MDB.
These are some of the key revelations from last week’s trial.
1st Time Socso is Mentioned
Najib had given his agreement for 1MDB to borrow RM3 billion from Social Security Organisation (Socso). 1MDB then would loan the money to PetroSaudi International Ltd (PSI).
Shahrol Azral said the former prime minister (PM) approved the plan based on 1MDB’s minutes dated March 30, 2011. 1MDB would then lend PSI US$750 million (RM3.14 billion) if the former got the RM3 billion loan from Socso.
It was the first time that Socso was cited related to the troubled 1MDB. Another state-owned pension fund, Retirement Fund Inc loaned RM4 billion to 1MDB’s unit SRC International Sdn Bhd. It is interesting to see if Socso did or did not provide the loan. Based on news reports, Socso’s total assets under management was RM25.8 billion at the end of June 30, 2017.
US$1.8b, PSI, Jho Low’s Good Star
The long-known secret has been confirmed based on Shahrol Azral’s testimony. He said PSI co-founder and CEO Tarek Obaid wrote a letter to Najib on Feb 18, 2011, requesting for an additional US$750 million Islamic notes.
He said after several discussions with Jho Low, between April and May 2011, PSI agreed to reduce the drawdown request from the 1MDB-PetroSaudi Ltd (joint-venture company) to US$330 million on May 12, 2011. The amount was further cut to US$205 million and this upset PSI.
Shahrol Azral revealed that 1MDB had injected a total of US$1.83 billion into PSI and Jho Low-owned company Good Star Ltd.
In a board meeting at Four Seasons Hotel in London on May 16, 2011, Shahrol Azral said Najib received an expensive-looking gift, which was a watch, from Tarek. PSI director Mahony and Jho Low also attended the meeting.
Finally the Mideast Royalties
Shahrol Azral also revealed that the discussion for the loan to PSI faced some intricacies and had angered some royals from the Middle East.
“Jho Low said, ‘they complained to daddy’ who referred to Prince Turki who had informed the late King Abdullah.
“I was also informed by Jho Low that there had been talks between Najib and King Abdullah on the issue as the US$330 million had already been agreed prior.”
Obscenely Huge Pay Cheques for People in 1MDB
The court was told that Najib had set and approved a total of RM216,000 remuneration for himself for being a member of 1MDB’s board of advisors (BoA). He received RM120,000 a year as the chairman of 1MDB BoAs and another RM96,000 as a member of the BoAs.
Shahrol Azral revealed that these allowances were fixed by Najib himself as the chairman of the BoAs. In the SRC International trial, it was revealed that Najib received RM58,605 a month from May 2009 to April 2018 for the salary as the PM.
Shahrol Azral also revealed other 1MDB directors’ fees — chairman Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin (RM230,000 per annum), while Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, Datuk Ong Gim Huat, Shahrol Azral (himself) and Ashvin Jethanand each pocketed RM179,000.
Shahrol Azral said the directors’ fees were proposed by Jho Low and approved by Najib.
It is not known the salaries of the key management of 1MDB at that time, including key characters who have fled from country and are now being hunted by the authorities to face criminal charges in Malaysia.
The Real Wolf of 1MDB Street
The prosecution last week revealed that Red Granite Pictures, the producer of the blockbuster movie The Wolf of Wall Street, received US$9 million as an advance to produce the movie from Jho Low’s Good Star.
A document was tendered during last week’s trial. The money was paid to Red Granite Productions Inc to an account at City National Bank Los Angeles as “advances for Wolf of Wall Street movie for ACHL” in September 2012.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram showed a few documents to Shahrol Azral during the trial. More revelations are expected in the explosive trial of the former PM and other characters that orchestrated what is dubbed as the world’s largest corporate larceny.