Ex-1MDB chief says trusted Jho Low ‘100%’ as he was close to Najib

Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho. (Bloomberg pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi told the High Court today that he trusted Low Taek Jho “100%” as the fugitive businessman had been close to former prime minister Najib Razak.

He said Low, better known as Jho Low, had had access to Najib’s home in Taman Duta here and had given him the contact numbers of Najib’s assistants.

“These are the small things that build up over time,” he added.

“One example I can share was when I treated Jho Low to some nasi goreng that I made, and he said he wanted to give it to Najib.

“He told me later that the prime minister had said the nasi goreng was good,” he said, drawing laughter from those present at court.

He said this when asked by lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah why he had such confidence in Jho Low when executing the decision for 1MDB to invest in a hedge fund through a Cayman Island company. He was also asked if the decision was authorised by Najib, who was 1MDB’s shareholder.

Shahrol previously told the court that Jho Low could move in and out of Najib’s official residence at Putrajaya during the latter’s tenure as deputy prime minister, and that he would ask the staff there for “Milo ais”.

He also said 1MDB members had given the code name of “PITA” to the proposed project to repatriate over US$2.2 billion from the joint venture project with PetroSaudi International (PSI).

“That was an internal joke,” he added. “‘P’ stood for ‘PSI’ and PITA meant ‘pain in the ass’.”

He also said the matter needed to be handled delicately and not on a purely commercial basis as it involved the bilateral relationship between two countries.

When asked about 1MDB’s decision to acquire 49% of shares in PetroSaudi Oil Service Ltd with its Murabaha notes investment, he said Jho Low and the company’s general counsel at the time, Jasmine Loo Ai Swan, had told him that the profits would be channelled back to 1MDB.

When asked if he had briefed the board of directors on the deal, Shahrol said this had been done by Loo.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on June 4 before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.

Najib is currently standing trial for 25 charges of money laundering and abuse of power over alleged 1MDB funds amounting to RM2.28 billion deposited in his AmBank accounts between February 2011 and December 2014.

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