PMO pushed for JV agreement with Aabar, says ex-1MDB CEO

Shahrol Azral says he was told by Azlin that the JV agreement had to be ready before the visit of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi


FORMER 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi testified that the joint-venture (JV) agreement with Aabar Investment PJS (Aabar) was made in a hurry following the order from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Shahrol Azral told the Kuala Lumpur (KL) High Court that the terms in the agreement were moved by the PMO which led to the signing of the document without a proper Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) first as a normal practice.

The ninth prosecution witness in Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s (picture) 1MDB trial said he was told by Najib’s former principal private secretary, the late Datuk Azlin Alias, that it was imperative to have the JV agreement ready before the visit of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi General Sheikh Mohammed Zayed Al Nahyan to Malaysia.

“I remember there was an email sent by Azlin, who forwarded us a copy of an email from Abu Dhabi entrepreneur, Khaldoon Khalifa Al-Mubarak stating the terms of the JV. It was sent late 2012 or early 2013. I took it in good faith that it was a government-to-government initiative,” he said yesterday.

The witness denied pushing the timeline of the JV agreement as it was managed by 1MDB legal counsel Jasmine Loo, while at the same time it was moved forward by the PMO.

Shahrol Azral added that the JV agreement preparation also took talking points from fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or known as Jho Low.

“The instruction (to finalise the JV agreement) came from PMO via the instruction and talking points from Jho Low. Among the things that were finalised in the agreement was 1MDB and Aabar needed to inject RM3 billion each before the director of the JV company could be appointed,” he said.

The fundraising exercise for the JV was part of the terms and conditions in a land deal on the development of the KL International Financial District (now known as the Tun Razak Exchange) between 1MDB and Aabar.

Najib’s defence counsel Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed raised issues on the agreement which never materialised until 2014, despite all the documents being finalised.

Wan Aizuddin: “What else was lacking that the JV company was still waiting to execute the development?”

Shahrol Azral: “We were waiting for a similar indication from Aabar that they have injected the RM3 billion. At the company level, all parties need to do the sign-off.”

Wan Aizuddin: “So there was no confirmation that Aabar had injected the RM3 billion on their part?”

Shahrol Azral: “No and the terms of the agreement were never revisited.”

Wan Aizuddin: “What did you know about the RM3 billion (from 1MBD side) that has been raised for the JV?”

Shahrol Azral: “From what I remember, it was kept in 1MDB Global Investment Ltd’s account and managed in a cash management account that generated income return while we waited for the JV to be finalised.”

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.

The trial has been adjourned until Sept 1.