Witness says some people in Umno jealous of Najib-Jho Low’s ties

Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral says Jho Low wanted to keep his involvement in 1MDB low-key, so as to not jeopardise Najib’s position in Umno

by BERNAMA/ pic by ARIF KARTONO

THE High Court heard yesterday that some people within Umno were jealous of Low Taek Jho’s (or Jho Low) influence over and access to former Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak.

Former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi (picture) said Jho Low wanted to keep his involvement in 1MDB low-key, so as to not jeopardise Najib’s position in Umno.

Shahrol Azral, 49, testified that Jho Low told him that his (Jho Low’s) involvement, from 2009 to 2011, had to be kept low-key as some people within Umno were jealous of his (Jho Low’s) access to Najib.

The ninth prosecution witness said this during cross-examination by Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, counsel for Najib, on the 17th day of the former PM’s 1MDB corruption trial.

Muhammad Shafee: In the DCR (directors’ circular resolution) of 1MDB, you and Tan Sri Ismee Ismail (former member of 1MDB board of directors) openly appointed Jho Low as the company’s advisor, which means there was no problem that the image of Jho Low cannot be shown. There was no such problem.

Shahrol Azral: Yes.

Muhammad Shafee: When did he become a problem?

Shahrol Azral: This is my observation. He started to become a problem when Datuk Seri Najib became the sole shareholder and stakeholder in 1MDB. And I guess there was a lot of envy from people within Umno over Jho Low’s influence and access to

Datuk Seri Najib. So, it made sense to me when Jho Low informed me that his involvement had to be kept lowkey so as to not jeopardise Datuk Seri Najib’s position in Umno. That was the plan from 2010 onwards and I accepted his explanation.

Questioned by Muhammad Shafee on Jho Low’s involvement in 1MDB, the witness said from 2009 to 2011, not many people knew that Jho Low was playing a big role in Najib’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and even China at the time.

Shahrol Azral also agreed with the lawyer’s suggestion that he was convinced that Jho Low was the one who had opened the doors in the three places.

Earlier, the witness said Jho Low had taken Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin of Terengganu, then the Yang diPertuan Agong, to Abu Dhabi to look at the business of Mubadala Development Co, the sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates.

Muhammad Shafee: The idea of Terengganu Investment Authority Bhd was mooted when Jho Low took the sultan to Abu Dhabi to witness the workings of Mubadala business?

Shahrol Azral: Correct.

Muhammad Shafee: Najib was not in the horizon about the Mubadala sovereign fund, not even in the horizon?

Shahrol Azral: Not to my personal knowledge…because I don’t know what Jho Low might have said to Najib.

Asked whether he agreed that the sultan was impressed with Jho Low’s introduction of Mubadala, the witness replied “correct”.

To another question, Shahrol Azral said he trusted Jho Low and 1MDB ED Casey Tang from 2009 up to 2015 because there was nothing ridiculous in their doings (in 1MDB).

Muhammad Shafee also questioned Shahrol Azral about his educational background.

The witness said he studied at the Royal Military College from 1983 to 1987, that he did quite well and won the Director of Studies Award when he completed Form Five in 1987.

Najib, 66, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

The hearing before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues tomorrow. — Bernama