Ex-1MDB CEO: BN leaders, PMO among those who asked Najib be protected

Any mention of Jho Low was removed and the responsibility for all the decisions was put on my shoulders, testified Shahrol Azral

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by ARIF KARTONO

BARISAN Nasional (BN) politicians, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, were among parties who had asked former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) CEO to protect former PM Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak (picture) from the financial scandal involving the strategic development fund.

Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, who was the first 1MDB CEO from 2009 to 2013, testified that he had dealt with the notion to protect Najib that came from various sources as the 1MDB scandal broke.

In Najib’s 1MDB trial, the ninth prosecution witness told the Kuala Lumpur High Court that officers from the PMO, particularly Najib’s communication advisor Datuk Seri Ahmad Farid Ridzuan and a former aide Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, and also civil servants in the Finance Ministry had used the phrase “must protect the PM”.

During re-examination by lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, the witness also said traces of Jho Low in 1MDB were asked to be removed, while he had to bear all the responsibility, akin to being set up as a “fall guy”.

Sri Ram: “Americans call it the ‘fall guy’, you were the fall guy.”

Shahrol Azral: “Yes, Americans call it the fall guy, Malays call it kambing hitam (scapegoat).”

Shahrol Azral further said Najib’s former media advisor Paul Stadlen and former Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Datuk Seri Hasan Arifin also expressed the need to protect Najib’s image.

He added that his testimony to the PAC when 1MDB was investigated by the parliamentary body was also influenced by the idea to protect Najib.

“I also met with then chairman of PAC, Hassan Ariffin, and one or two others at Ahmad Farid’s home and uniformly the objective of that discussion was to again protect Najib’s reputation.

“Of course, my testimony to the PAC was influenced by the idea of protecting Najib. The fact was that any mention of Jho Low was removed and the responsibility for all the decisions was put on my shoulders,” Shahrol Azral said.

During cross-examination by the lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah earlier, Shahrol Azral said he had received an estimated of over 100 talking points or written instructions from Jho Low between 2009 and 2016 regarding 1MDB dealings.

He said these communications were received via emails and BlackBerry Messenger.

He, however, said those were destroyed as instructed by Jho Low in 2015, around the time of the second 1MDB inquiry by the PAC.

Shahrol Azral disagreed with the suggestion by Muhammad Shafee that Jho Low was a 1MDB shadow director and instead, he said the fugitive businessman was acting at the behest of the shareholder, which was Najib.

Najib is facing 25 charges in 1MDB’s trial, four counts of abuse of power to obtain gratifications totalling RM2.3 billion and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same proceeds.

The trial has been adjourned until Monday.