KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court heard today that a joint venture between PetroSaudi International (PSI) and state investor 1MDB was a result of personal ties between Najib Razak and the late King Abdullah.
Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi said this when cross-examined by Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah on the 35th day of the trial.
Shahrol’s response came when the lawyer was questioning the witness, who kept repeating about a government-to-government joint venture between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
The witness said both parties worked hard to make the business deal a success.
Shafee: Did it not occur to you what kind of government-to-government deal this was when your joint venture partner was not even showing you accounts?
Shahrol: The genesis of this cooperation was personal — between Najib and King Abdullah. That was what I was informed and there were pictures shown to me. I didn’t have any reason to doubt that it was not a government-to-government relationship.
On another matter, the ninth prosecution witness said the 1MDB board of directors were careful on what they minuted during their meetings to protect Najib’s image.
Shahrol said during his tenure as CEO between 2009 and 2013, some matters that were discussed during board meetings were not recorded to prevent any “political attacks” on the then prime minister.
The witness said this when Shafee asked whether he informed the board of the difficulty in obtaining documents to audit 1MDB accounts by Ernst and Young, the auditing firm.
Ernst and Young is said to have refused to sign off on the 1MDB financial statement due to dissatisfaction over a joint venture asset that 1MDB had with PSI.
The company was then terminated as 1MDB auditor and replaced with KPMG Malaysia.
Shahrol also dismissed a suggestion by Shafee that as CEO, he had swept every issue raised by Ernst and Young under the carpet by changing auditors.
The witness was testifying in the trial of Najib, who is charged with 25 counts of money laundering and abuse of power charges over alleged 1MDB funds amounting to RM2.28 billion deposited in his AmBank accounts.
Hearing continues before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.
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