by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by TMR FILE
FUGITIVE businessman Jho Low (picture) had nominated a successor of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) ED and with the approval of former Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Abdul Razak.
Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi testified that he received the curriculum vitae (CV) of his successor Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman from Jho Low.
The ninth prosecution witness said the CV had a notation by Najib naming Mohd Hazem as 1MDB ED.
“Jho Low told me Mohd Hazem was recommended by Najib’s former principal private secretary, the late Datuk Azlin Alias. Najib had personally written a note which was attached to the CV stating ‘Hazem to be appointed as 1MDB ED’.
“I clarified that there was no role of ED in 1MDB at the time and I recommended (Mohd Hazem) be appointed as COO. When he came in as the COO, I made him responsible to oversee 1MDB’s real estate division,” Shahrol Azral said at the Kuala Lumpur (KL) High Court yesterday.
The court previously heard that Article 117 of 1MDB’s memorandum and articles of association provided Najib, among others, the power to hire and fire as the PM.
In a previous proceeding, Najib’s lead defence counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the 1MDB management had repeatedly fallen into “cobra pits” and suggested that the company was “run by a bunch of idiots”.
Shahrol Azral was the first 1MDB CEO from 2009 to 2013, when he was hastily transferred to the now-defunct performance management and delivery unit.
Mohd Hazem took over from Shahrol Azral until he resigned in 2015 and was succeeded by Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
During his tenure, Mohd Hazem mostly oversaw deals on the Tun Razak Exchange development (formerly known as KL International Financial District) that involved a US$3 billion (RM12.57 billion) bond raised for a joint venture (JV) between 1MDB and Aabar Investments PJS Ltd (Aabar BVI), a fraud entity created by Jho Low in the British Virgin Islands.
Defence counsel Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed suggested during crossexamination that Mohd Hazem’s appointment was to ensure the continuity of Jho Low’s money embezzling scheme, in which Shahrol Azral dismissed.
Wan Aizuddin: “I put it to you, Jho Low had suggested the appointment of Mohd Hazem for the purpose of continuing the scheme to embezzle money from 1MDB.”
Shahrol Azral: “I disagree.”
Wan Aizuddin: “Mohd Hazem was appointed to succeed you as CEO as a way of passing the baton from one person (to another) to be told by Jho Low on what to do.”
Shahrol Azral: “I have no comment on that.”
The witness also denied having any knowledge of the omission of International Petroleum Investment Co’s (IPIC) name in the final draft of the letter of comfort (LoC) to the Ministry of Finance to secure the funds for the 1MDB-Aabar BVI JV.
Wan Aizuddin:” I put it to you, once IPIC’s name was removed from the LoC, it wouldn’t be held for any responsibility should the JV fail?”
Shahrol Azral: “I agree.”
Wan Aizuddin: “I put it to you, the omission of IPIC’s involvement was purposely done in this scheme between Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Jho Low and his associates, in which you have knowledge, to mislead the government of Malaysia and 1MBD board of directors.”
Shahrol Azral: “I didn’t have any knowledge, I disagree.”
Wan Aizuddin: “I put it to you, Mohd Hazem and other personalities in 1MDB were also involved in this scheme.”
Shahrol Azral: “I disagree because at that time I had no knowledge of any involvement. Even in hindsight, I cannot comment on the matter because I don’t know the full facts.”
Najib is facing 25 charges in the 1MDB trial — four counts of power abuse to obtain gratifications totalling RM2.3 billion linked to 1MDB and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same proceeds.
He has been convicted in the trial involving 1MDB’s unit SRC International Sdn Bhd.
The trial was adjourned until Aug 17.