Najib kept cool after Terengganu ruler tried to pull the plug on RM5 billion bonds, ex-1MDB CEO says

Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi told the High Court here today that former prime minister Najib Razak had remained calm when informed that Terengganu ruler Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin had ordered a stop to the issuance of RM5 billion Islamic medium-term notes in 2009.

He said this when questioned by Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah about his meeting with the former prime minister at his home at Langgak Duta on the night of May 22, 2009, after Shahrol was asked to sign the order on behalf of Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), the precursor of 1MDB.

Shafee asked if Najib had appeared baffled after he told him that Sultan Mizan was angry.

“I told him I did not know why Tuanku was angry,” Shahrol said. “He was neutral at that time and I do not recall any bafflement.”

Shahrol previously told the court that Sultan Mizan had been furious over the issuance of RM5 billion Islamic bonds.

He also said Sultan Mizan had asked him to sign a company resolution to stop the sale of the bonds, and that Shahrol and former 1MDB director Ismee Ismail who was also present at the palace were not given a chance to explain.

Shahrol said Najib had told him: “Go ahead and I will talk to Tuanku.”

He said he interpreted this as Najib ordering him to continue with the issuance of the bonds.

“There was no doubt in my mind that the finance minister was telling me to go ahead with the process of issuing the bonds,” he added, referring to Najib.

Shahrol also told the court that TIA did not know AmBank had sold the company’s RM5 billion bonds at a discounted price of RM4.3 billion to foreign companies linked to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho.

Shafee asked Shahrol whether he or the company directors had ever asked AmBank to explain the discounted price.

Shahrol said AmBank had given presentations to 1MDB’s directors in October 2009 about the price breakdown.

“I believe Bakke was the one who asked why 1MDB and TIA only received RM4.3 billion instead of RM5 billion,” he said, referring to former 1MDB director Bakke Salleh.

Shafee then asked whether TIA knew that the company had the right to demand that AmBank provide an answer to the question.

To this, Shahrol said he did not know.

He agreed that 1MDB had suffered losses due to the sale of the bonds at a lower price.

He also agreed that entities such as the Employees Provident Fund, Socso and several insurance companies which bought the bonds through Low’s companies at face value had lost out.

Shahrol said yesterday that the police had told him during the 1MDB investigation that foreign companies linked to Low – Aktis Capital Singapore Ptd Ltd and Country Group – bought the RM5 billion bonds at a lower price and made a profit by selling them back to government agencies.

The hearing continues before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.

Earlier today, Shahrol also identified eight individuals related to 1MDB: Ismee, Bakke, former board of directors chairman Che Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, Najib’s former officer Wan Ahmad Shihab Wan Ismail, former 1MDB company secretary Lim Poh Seng, former chief financial officer Azmi Tahir, TRX City company secretary Goh Gaik Sim and Bukit Aman commercial crime department investigating officer R Rajagopal.

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.