Jho Low installed his cronies into TIA, says witness in 1MDB trial

The 9th prosecution witness says after he was appointed as CEO, Jho Low and Tang were already talking to bankers regarding govt guarantee bonds for TIA

by BERNAMA/ pic by ARIF KARTONO

THE former CEO of state-owned sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) told the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday that fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, often called Jho Low, had brought his cronies into Terengganu Investment Authority Bhd (TIA), which later became 1MDB.

Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, 49, said this when cross-examined by Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, the defence counsel for Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak on the 18th day of the 1MDB trial against the former prime minister.

Muhammad Shafee: Jho Low put his people such as Jasmine Loo (1MDB’s lawyer), Terence Geh (1MDB’s director) and Casey Tang (1MDB’s ED).

Shahrol Azral: I did not realise the thing was happening.

Muhammad Shafee: You did not realise that it was Jho Low’s plan to put his people around you?

Shahrol Azral: Yes, now it’s quite clear. But in 2009, I saw him as a sincere representative of the TIA. In the early days, when we did fundraising, he was also speaking for Najib (also the finance minister at the time).

The ninth prosecution witness told the court that shortly after he (Shahrol Azral) was appointed as CEO, Jho Low and Tang were already talking to bankers regarding government guarantee bonds for TIA.

The former CEO also told the High Court yesterday that he had no opportunity to tell the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin that he had no experience in financial matters.

He also said his appointment as CEO of TIA and later renamed 1MDB, was decided by people above him, namely the TIA board and the stakeholders — being the federal and state governments.

Muhammad Shafee: Did you tell the Sultan that you had no experience in fundraising?

Shahrol Azral: No, I had no opportunity to tell the Sultan. I was not given an opportunity to speak to Tuanku about my concern (his lack experience in fundraising).

“I was called to the palace, I sat down, and was introduced to the Sultan and given the offer. If I was not qualified for certain aspects, it was the people who appointed me that should have known that.

“I had zero opportunity to tell Agong that I had no experience. Tuanku was in a meeting room when I was brought in to the Istana by fugitive businessman Jho Low and it was my first time in the palace and I was not prepared (for the occasion),” he said.

However, the witness said he had informed Jho Low that he did not have the experience in fundraising before he was brought before the Agong in 2009.

Muhammad Shafee: You have no experience in financing matters, right? Do you think that’s the reason why Jho Low appointed you? Because you didn’t have financial experience?

Shahrol Azral: At the time, I didn’t think so.

Muhammad Shafee: Now with hindsight?

Shahrol Azral: That is a possibility.

Queried why the Sultan’s representative raised questions about Jho Low, the witness said that Jho Low told him it was a political fight between the state and federal governments.

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

Hearing before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues, with senior deputy public prosecutor and former Federal Court Judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram leading the prosecution. — Bernama