A former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chief executive today rejected the suggestion that he made a deal with investigators to give incriminating testimony that would “crucify” Datuk Seri Najib Razak in court.
Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, who was 1MDB’s CEO from its establishment in 2009 until 2013 and later 1MDB’s director from 2013 to 2016, has been testifying as the ninth prosecution witness in Najib’s trial for alleged power abuse and money laundering of 1MDB’s funds.
Najib’s lead defence lawyer, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, today repeatedly accused Shahrol Azral of having struck a deal to testify against Najib in order to avoid getting charged over the 1MDB scandal, but Shahrol Azral denied this and even at one point used a Malay saying “berani kerana benar” to indicate he was telling the truth in court.
Shafee claimed that Shahrol Azral had committed acts that amounted to criminal breach of trust as the 1MDB director and could have been charged for these, but Shahrol Azral disagreed.
Shafee also suggested that local law enforcement agencies considered Shahrol Azral to be an accomplice of businessman Low Taek Jho in the 1MDB scheme, as they have barred him from leaving the country and allegedly confiscated his passport, which Shahrol Azral disputed.
“Correction. I have been able to travel since early 2020 and my passport has never been taken and I disagree that I’m an accomplice with Jho Low,” he said, explaining that he did not apply to have the travel ban lifted but had discovered it while checking his status one day.
Shafee: I’m putting to you that you were given a deal by the investigating agency for you to be the principal witness in this case so they will go soft on you, otherwise you would have been charged.
Shahrol Azral: Disagree.
Shafee continued to press Shahrol Azral later with the suggestion that he had avoided prosecution by testifying against Najib.
Shafee referred to the Malaysian government’s pressing of criminal charges in court against various individuals including Low and Goldman Sachs entities over the alleged omission of important facts and provision of misleading facts in documents for 1MDB’s fundraising efforts via the issuance of bonds, suggesting that Shahrol Azral could also have been charged for those offences.
When Shahrol Azral said he was “not fully aware of the facts” in these court cases linked to Goldman Sachs, Shafee then suggested that he should be more interested: “How come? I would want to know if I’m going to be next.”
Shahrol Azral then replied: “We have the saying in Malay, ‘berani kerana benar’.”
As Shafee continued to argue that Shahrol Azral should have made it a point to read about the cases as the events happened during his tenure as CEO, Shahrol Azral then explained: “I was aware of the charges against Goldman Sachs, but I did not keep track.”
Shahrol Azral also disagreed that he should have been charged along with Goldman Sachs and the related individuals, but Shafee again pushed the idea of a purported deal having been made.
Shafee: I’m putting to you, the reason why you have not been charged, the investigating agency has made a deal with you. You gave evidence to crucify my client and you would be left off the hook?
Shahrol Azral: Disagree.
Shahrol Azral disagreed with yet another suggestion by Shafee that he had struck a deal to not be charged in exchange for giving evidence that will “incriminate” Najib.
Shahrol Azral confirmed that 1MDB never sued him, but disagreed with Shafee’s suggestion that the company could have filed a lawsuit against him for allegedly failing his duties as a member of 1MDB’s board of directors.
Later during re-examination, lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram touched on Shafee’s suggestion that Shahrol Azral had allegedly breached his duties as both 1MDB CEO and director and would therefore allegedly be liable to both criminal prosecution and civil suit, before going on to ask what Najib’s stance was.
Sri Ram: Now, during the period that you were the CEO until you left, did the accused express any unhappiness about your performance?
Shahrol Azral: No, not at all.
As for the charges that were brought against Low, Shahrol Azral confirmed that these were brought long after he had left 1MDB.
Sri Ram then asked if Najib had “taken any steps to bring prosecution against Jho Low” in Malaysia, to which Shahrol Azral replied: “To the best of my knowledge, no.”
Based on previous news reports, the charges against Goldman Sachs and Low were brought after Najib was no longer the prime minister. – MMO