Jho Low was ‘mafia adviser’ to Najib, ex-1MDB CEO tells court

Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi today described businessman Low Taek Jho as former prime minister Najib Razak’s adviser, using an Italian word that means a member of a Mafia family who serves as an adviser to the leader.

“There is an Italian word to describe him: ‘consigliere’,” he told the court in Najib’s 1MDB trial. “He gets things done for the prime minister.”

Shahrol also said the businessman, better known as Jho Low, had acted in Najib’s interest in the dispute between the federal and Terengganu governments on Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) in 2009.

When questioned by lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah about a meeting that took place on June 30, 2009, he said Jho Low had told him that representatives from the state palace and government would raise questions about the Penang businessman prior to a meeting between the federal and state governments.

“There was a meeting on June 30, 2009 where it was said that you and several government officials were in attendance,” Shafee said.

“In that meeting, the palace and state government representatives questioned who Jho Low was. Were you there?”

Shahrol replied: “You just confirmed I was there,” to which Shafee said, “Answer the question and don’t be funny.”

The lawyer then called Shahrol a “soprammobile”, an Italian term for table ornament.

However, Shahrol denied that he served only as a table decoration.

The former CEO also said Najib had given 1MDB a letter of support so that the company could register as 1Malaysia Development Bhd with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM).

He said former 1MDB company secretary Lim Poh Seng had checked with SSM and told him that the authorities would not allow them to use “Malaysia” in their name.

“He (Najib) wanted to include the ‘1Malaysia’ tag in the company’s name,” he said.

Najib introduced the 1Malaysia programme after becoming prime minister in 2009. The slogan was dropped after Pakatan Harapan took over the federal government last year.

The hearing continues before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah on Oct 14.

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.