Ex-1MDB chief denies asking for CEO post despite inexperience

KUALA LUMPUR: Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi today denied asking for the top position at the company’s precursor, Terengganu Authority Investment (TIA), despite having no experience in issues related to raising funds.

He told the High Court here that he had not pushed for the job, adding that he only knew about the position he would be taking after an audience with Terengganu ruler Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin in March 2009 at Istana Terengganu in Jalan Kia Peng.

“I was called to the istana, and I was introduced to Tuanku Mizan. I was given the offer there.

“I had no opportunity to speak to Tuanku because the meeting started before I came in.

“If I was not qualified in certain aspects such as fundraising matters, those who appointed me would have known,” he said when questioned by Najib Razak’s lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, on whether he had purposely concealed his inexperience in such issues when taking the CEO position at TIA.

Shahrol previously said he had graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University after which he began working at consulting firm Accenture.

He said businessman Low Taek Jho had offered him a job at TIA in late 2008.

Speaking today, he said two consultants had been present at the meeting with Sultan Mizan, who were presenting the “developmental aspects” of TIA.

“They were looking at ways to increase economic development in Terengganu, which was one of the poorest states in Malaysia, through four sectors: tourism, oil and gas, real estate and agriculture.”

When asked by Shafee whether he thought the funds for the proposed projects were already there, Shahrol said he was unclear at the time how the funds would be raised.

“My expectation was that I had the primary responsibility to build a team and ensure that it focuses on these objectives,” he said.

Shafee then asked him about his claim in his witness statement that he was an “ambitious” person.

Shahrol said he was ambitious about working things out.

“The counsel is trying to say that I wanted the CEO position and I hid my weaknesses from the stakeholders,” he added.

Shahrol also told the court that TIA had not paid Low for his role as company adviser.

To that, Shafee said: “He did his work pro bono and took billions away.”

Shahrol said TIA might have revoked Low’s appointment as adviser but that this was not done officially through a board resolution.

“We may have overlooked the documents to rescind his appointment,” he added.

He also said he had not raised any alarms on Low placing his associates Jasmine Loo, Casey Tang and Terence Geh around him at TIA and, later, 1MDB.

The three individuals are wanted for questioning in connection with investigations into 1MDB.

Najib is standing trial for 25 counts of money laundering and abuse of power charges over alleged 1MDB funds amounting to RM2.28 billion deposited in his AmBank accounts between February 2011 and December 2014.

The hearing continues before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.