1MDB trial: Former CEO denies proposing US$6b deal with Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments

Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court August 17, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court August 17, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 17 — Former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chief executive Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi today denied that he had pushed for the US$6 billion (RM25 billion) joint venture between the firm and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments PJS (Aabar).

Instead, Shahrol said that the Prime Minister Office (PMO) had in 2013 dictated the terms of the joint venture agreement and even pushed for the agreement’s completion to coincide with Abu Dhabi crown prince’s visit to Malaysia. 

“I just want to clarify that there was an indication that it was my idea to propose for the timeline. That’s not true. The timeline, the contents, the details of all this agreement came via emails all from the Prime Minister’s Office,’’ he told the High Court. 

Shahrol said he remembers receiving an email from Datuk Azlin Alias the former principal private secretary to Datuk Seri Najib Razak asking to change some details in the agreement.

Shahrol said the amended agreement then ultimately became the same agreement signed by 1MDB and Aabar Investment during the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, General Sheikh Mohammed Zayed Al Nahyan’s visit to the country on March 12, 2013. 

During cross-examination, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed had framed that it was Shahrol who “drew first blood” by proposing the deal to Najib via a letter that he had signed.

However, Shahrol retorted that the content of the letter in question was prepared by 1MDB general counsel, Jasmine Loo and insisted that Najib was briefed on the joint venture.

Wan Aizuddin: What I want to impress here is that you were the one who drew first blood, you were the one who proposes the purported JV, you told the prime minister that this deal was going to happen and it needs to happen by the time of the crown visited Malaysia

Shahrol: The letter was completely done by Jasmine, I have no direct knowledge but I believe it was briefed to Datuk Seri Najib at the time.  

Wan Aizuddin also asked Shahrol on why the “rush” for 1MDB to pump in the funds without assurances from Aabar Investment, to which he said the execution of such matters was up to the PMO.

Wan Aizuddin: As of January 2014 there have been no injection by Aabar, why the rush then for 1MDB to inject the US$3 billion?

Shahrol: The rush to come up with the US$3 billion, it was all instruction by the PMO.

Wan Aizuddin: This instruction came by PMO through the notes of Jho Low?

Shahrol: Yes.

Shahrol was referring to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or better known as Jho Low.

In March 2013, 1MDB entered into a 50/50 joint venture with Aabar Investment and both agreed to pump US$3 billion each into an SPV, called the Abu Dhabi Malaysian Investment Company Limited (ADMIC) for investment purposes.

While 1MDB, through its subsidiary, 1MDB Global Investment Limited (1MDB GIL) had pumped US$3 billion into ADMIC, Aabar, however, did not.

Shahrol also testified today that ADMIC did not carry out any investment activities and that he had brought up the matter during a January 2014 board of directors meeting, however, the issue was not discussed further even until his exit from the company in 2016.

Shahrol also told the court that he was told by investigators that the US$3 billion pumped into ADMIC was purportedly funnelled into companies linked to Low that ultimately made its way to Najib’s personal account.

The trial before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah is due to continue on September 1.

Earlier today, Najib’s lawyers had applied to the court for a shorter trial day today as they argued that the former was needed at parliament later to vote on bills.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib stated that the prosecution had no objection on the matter as they understood Najib had a duty as a member of parliament.


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