Ex-1MDB CEO brushes off lawyer’s suggestion he was incompetent

Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi denies that he was ‘not on the ball’.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi today dismissed a suggestion by the defence in Najib Razak’s 1MDB corruption trial that he was an incompetent manager when he helmed the company.

This came about when lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah equated Shahrol with “the fish head where the rot begins”.

Shafee: The fish rots from the head and you are the head.

Shahrol: I disagree.

Shafee grilled Shahrol, the ninth prosecution witness, over his leadership, saying that whenever he was put in a corner, he would either blame Najib, fugitive financier Low Taek Jho or then 1MDB lawyer Jasmine Loo.

“You never take fault. You blame everybody else except yourself,” Shafee said during cross-examination on the 37th day of the trial.

The defence is taking the position that Shahrol, who was running the day-to-day affairs of 1MDB from 2009 to 2013, is to be blamed for the financial scandal as he kept Najib and other directors in the dark over important decisions.

Shafee pointed out that the presentation of papers before the board to terminate the murabaha finance agreement with PetroSaudi International in March 2012 was delayed as Shahrol was “not on the ball”.

Shahrol said it was Loo’s responsibility to get in touch with PSI.

“The management was waiting for a representation from PSI. At that time, PSI was considered a trustworthy partner, representing the government of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Shafee said Shahrol, who was also one of the 1MDB directors, owed a fiduciary duty to the company because a report by the Public Accounts Committee in 2016 revealed he was negligent.

Shafee: Would you take responsibility for the losses suffered by 1MDB?

Shahrol: I have no comment.

The 106-page report said Shahrol and other top executives must be investigated over the affairs of the troubled state-owned company, which had accumulated debts of RM50 billion as at January 2016.

In a damning report tabled to Parliament, the bipartisan committee also laid blame on the board of directors for failing to carry out their responsibilities.

The prosecution in the ongoing trial said that Najib, who was prime minister from April 2009 until his ouster from power in May 2018, used his position as chairman of the company’s board of advisers to exert influence over the board and management.

It said the board was used to carry out certain transactions with undue haste for Najib to obtain gratifaction.

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.

The hearing before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah was adjourned to June 4.

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