1MDB officers met now-jailed BSI bankers at Singapore hotel, Najib trial told

Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi says police had also questioned him about the meeting.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi told the Najib Razak 1MDB trial that he was unaware his senior management staff had met bankers in Singapore to sort out the company’s “investment” in a Cayman Islands company.

He said he found out from Bukit Aman commercial crime officers, during investigations, that the then chief financial officer Azmi Tahir, general counsel Loo Ai Swan and company executive Geh Choh Heng had met the then BSI bankers Yeo Jiawei and Yak Yew Chee at the Mandarin Oriental on June 2012.

“They (police) asked me if I knew about the meeting and I told them I did not know about it during the material time,” Shahrol said.

He added the trio had told him they needed to travel across the Causeway “to sort out the funds for Brazen Sky and Bridge Partners International Investment Limited”.

Shahrol said Azmi, Loo, and Geh also did not report back to him on the outcome when they returned home.

Brazen Sky Limited was a special purpose vehicle company under 1MDB, set up to bring back the company’s funds invested in a joint venture with Petro Saudi International. The company was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

The court previously heard that 1MDB paid US$1 billion in 2009 for a 40% stake in the joint venture while Petro Saudi held the remaining 60%. The funds were later converted into Islamic murabaha notes.

1MDB later paid another US$830 million in total between 2010 and 2011 for the same purpose. By 2012, the notes were said to be worth US$2.22 billion.

The company wanted to repatriate US2.22 billion home but the plan did not materialise. 1MDB then reinvested the said US$2.2 billion into a hedge fund operated by Bridge Partners International, a company in the Cayman Islands.

The prosecution contended that 1MDB was holding “worthless papers” in 2012 for this purported investment.

Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah pointed out that the meeting at the five-star hotel was a subject matter under the US Department of Justice’s (DoJ) 1MDB lawsuit.

He said: “It baffles me that your reputation was at stake and you did not read the DoJ report. This critical meeting was to conspire with the bankers to do illegal activity.”

Shahrol said he disagreed.

“I cannot testify for the prime minister on whether he knew about the contents of the meeting,” he said to a question if Najib knew about the hotel meeting.

Shafee pointed out that Yak and Yeo have since been sentenced to prison in Singapore on various criminal charges over 1MDB transactions.

Najib is standing trial on 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.

The hearing continues before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah on July 15.

Shafee had asked the court to vacate the hearing tomorrow (July 2) on grounds that Najib has to be at Chini for the by-election campaign and that his presence was needed to boost voter turnout.

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