Najib agreed to big names as TIA advisers, says ex-1MDB CEO

Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi says he travelled to Paris to deliver an appointment letter to a prominent French businessman to sit on TIA’s advisory board.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi said he was not a mere “postman” who took instructions from Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, without checking with Najib Razak, he told the High Court hearing the graft trial of the former prime minister.

Shahrol said in the case of the appointment of international advisers for the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), Jho Low’s orders to him were consistent with Najib’s decision to get several prominent international businessmen.

“I merely had to formalise the appointments with the board of directors. The names came from Jho Low which Datuk Seri (Najib) had agreed to,” he said.

Among the names suggested by Jho Low were former Qatar prime minister Hamad Jassim Jaber Al Thani, Mubadala CEO Khaldoon Al Mubarak, French businessman Bernard Arnault and CITIC Group chairman Chang Zhenming.

Shahrol said Najib had agreed to the names.

To this, Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said: “There is nothing coming from your personal knowledge as CEO. And you were literally playing ‘Mr Postman’.”

Shahrol in response said that when he was told the names, they were already approved.

He said none of the advisers had attended a meeting due to their busy schedules.

To a question, Shahrol said they were given letters of appointment.

Shafee then asked if Jho Low suggested the names because the fugitive businessman was fond of dropping names to impress others.

“I had personally met Khaldoon and he clearly knew he was on the board of advisers,” said Shahrol.

He said he had also met Arnault in Paris together with former 1MDB executive director Casey Tang to deliver the letter of appointment, adding that the businessman had “verbally accepted it”.

However he said the appointment letters for Chang and Hamad were given to them by Low.

Shahrol said Jho Low had also proposed businessman Ashvin Jethanand Valiram to be part of the 1MDB board of directors.

He said Najib was of the opinion that Ashvin would give the board “a more 1Malaysia composition” following the resignation of directors Bakke Salleh and Azlan Zainol.

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.

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