Jho Low’s name kept under wraps to protect Najib, says ex-1MDB CEO

Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi disagreed with a suggestion that he concealed Jho Low’s name because he was colluding with him to get remuneration from Goldman Sachs.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi testified at the High Court today that he was told to keep fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low’s name out of 1MDB affairs in 2011 to protect the then prime minister, Najib Razak.

In his previous testimony last year, Shahrol, 50, said Jho Low’s name had to be kept under wraps during board meetings as there were people within Umno who were unhappy with his direct access to Najib.

During cross-examination by Najib’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed, the ninth prosecution witness, however, disagreed to a suggestion that he was concealing Jho Low’s name because he was colluding with him (Jho Low) to get remuneration from investment management firm Goldman Sachs.

The said remuneration was from 1MDB’s plan to acquire power plant operator Tanjong Energy Holdings Sdn Bhd for RM10.6 billion and Goldman Sachs acted as the financial adviser to 1MDB.

In February 2012, Goldman Sachs was appointed to represent 1MDB in the deal with a 0.5% fee from the bid price if the acquisition was successful.

Shahrol admitted that Jho Low was responsible for proposing Goldman Sachs for the positions of “bookrunner, underwriter, and arranger” for the acquisition’s funding process, apart from being its official financial adviser.

“As I recall, Jho Low said: ‘Why don’t we get Goldman to do everything relating to the funding?’,” he said.

The witness explained that he had to sign the confirmation letter before the board meeting as they were going to present it to the board (about the Tanjong Energy acquisition), which needed to be done in order for Goldman to be present.

The due diligence exercise to acquire Tanjong Energy had been done since December 2011 and it was led by the 1MDB investment team at that time, Vincent Koh, together with 1MDB general counsel Jasmine Loo and Goldman itself.

“They worked very hard, even on public holidays. It’s not uncommon that advisers or banks who are going to sign or to advise come on board to help before they sign on to become advisers, like what happened with Goldman.

“Although they signed on to be advisers in February, they had already begun their work in December 2011,” he said.

Based on the document read out in court, the submission to acquire Tanjong Energy was made on Feb 10, 2012, two days after Goldman pitched the bid to the 1MDB board of directors.

When asked whether Jho Low was a broker for Goldman, Shahrol said he saw Jho Low as a facilitator instead as he had contacts with all the relevant stakeholders, including the prime minister.

To another question posed by Wan Aizuddin, Shahrol admitted that the 1MDB board of directors was not informed of the RM2.1 billion reduction in the price of the acquisition, which meant the sovereign wealth fund would only have to pay around RM8.5 billion.

“The board was only informed that the price of the acquisition would be up to RM10.6 billion and possibly lower,” he said.

Towards the end of today’s proceedings, Najib lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah made an application before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah for Najib to attend the Parliament sitting as his client is slotted to speak tomorrow as the Pekan MP.

Shafee explained that, previously, MPs had been excused from court during trials when they were the accused.

“Preventing an MP from going to attend to his duty can be subject to contempt of Parliament,” he said.

In response to this, Sequerah replied: “Are you saying I will be held in contempt of Parliament if I don’t allow this?”

Shafee: My client has decided to give his speech after 2pm. May I suggest for the court to carry on from 9.30am to 1.30pm tomorrow?

Sequerah: I understand that he has his duty, but this court has its duty, too. I say that the trial continues tomorrow from 9.30am to 4.30pm.

The proceedings adjourned till tomorrow.

Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.