Ex-1MDB CEO says he was made a scapegoat

PAC believes that Shahrol Azral needs to take responsibility for those weaknesses and blunders, says defence counsel


FORMER 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi (picture) testified that he was made a scapegoat for weaknesses in the company, the High Court heard.

Shahrol Azral said this in 1MDB trial involving former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak yesterday.

When the defence cited the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) report in 2016 that recommended he should be responsible and investigated over 1MDB, Shahrol Azral replied: “They are painting me to be a scapegoat.”

Defence counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Muhamad Abdullah earlier stated, specifically, PAC believed that Shahrol Azral needed to take responsibility for those weaknesses and blunders.

“Therefore, the law enforcement agencies are required to carry out further investigation on Shahrol Azral and others involved in the management of 1MDB.”

Muhammad Shafee said the PAC was merely saying that the former 1MDB CEO was responsible over the matter.

The ninth prosecution witness, whose tenure at 1MDB began from 2009 until 2013, also testified that there was no background check made on Tan Sri Ong Gim Huat before being appointed as the company’s independent director.

Ong turned out to be a long-time business partner of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho’s (Jho Low) father Tan Sri Larry Low Hock Peng, in which Shahrol Azral said he was not aware and that Jho Low never informed him about the connection.

The witness said no due diligence was conducted because Ong was appointed by Najib in line with 1MDB’s Articles of Association that empowered the former PM to do so.

Muhammad Shafee raised the issue of independence on Ong’s part as a director given his relationship with Jho Low’s father, but Shahrol Azral maintained that he would not be able to judge the matter and declined to comment.

Najib is facing 25 charges — 21 counts of money laundering involving RM4.3 billion (received and transferred) and four counts of corruption involving RM2.3 billion linked to 1MDB funds, which were deposited into his accounts.

The former PM pleaded not guilty.

The 1MDB trial continues today.

Separately, the High Court has fixed June 15 for resuming Najib and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy’s 1MDB audit report tampering trial.

Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan has set 15 days from June 15 to 18; July 27 to 30; Aug 10 to 13 and Aug 24 to 26 for the hearing.

During a case management yesterday, deputy public prosecutor Rozalina Zakaria said the prosecution has another 20 witnesses to testify.

To date, seven prosecution witnesses have testified including former Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa and former Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang.

The 1MDB audit report tampering trial is Najib’s third after the SRC International Sdn Bhd and 1MDB trials.

He has been accused of using his position to tamper with an official document to protect himself while Arul Kanda by his conduct abetted him.