Paperwork was prepared for Pulau Bidong luxury hotel, says ex-1MDB head

Former 1MDB chief executive officer Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi says no final decision was made on the Pulau Bidong project as TIA had no money at the early stage.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former 1MDB chief executive officer Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi told the High Court in Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial that paperwork was prepared for Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) to develop Pulau Bidong in the east coast state for tourism.

The island used to be the home of Vietnamese refugees from the 1970s to 1990s.

“At that time, I was shown some early plans that included a diagram of an island, where the hotel was to be built. I spoke to the former CEO of Mubadala Real Estate and Hospitality John Thomas about it.

“There was also a survey attached to the proposal,” he said when asked by lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah on the development plans for the island.

Mubadala is the investment arm for the United Arab Emirates government.

Shahrol said no final decision was made on the Pulau Bidong project to proceed as TIA had no money at the early stage.

“They didn’t invest because we (TIA) didn’t have the money and there was no MoU (memorandum of understanding) signed for this,” he said, denying Shafee’s suggestion that fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho came out with an “imaginary drawing” on the project for Shahrol.

The former CEO had previously said that Low informed him that Mubadala had expressed interest in investing in a luxury hotel in Pulau Bidong.

Shahrol said TIA had yet to get any loans through issuance of bonds. The proposed project did not kick off because a conflict later arose between the Terengganu and federal governments.

The federal government took over TIA and renamed it 1MDB in July 2009. The RM5 billion bonds raised by TIA were later used for 1MDB’s joint venture with Petro Saudi International.

The hearing continues before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah on Oct 10.

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.