Najib’s attorney seeks to blame ex-CEO of 1MDB predecessor for RM5b obligation, but prosecution reminds witness who testified of Najib’s instructions | Malaysia

Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on March 17, 2022. — Photo by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 – Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyer today attempted to suggest that Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi – the former CEO of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and its predecessor Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) had committed wrongdoing by signing documents to allow TIA to issue RM5 billion in bonds in May 2009.

Najib’s lawyer, Datuk Hariharan Tara Singh, suggested it during cross-examination of 13th prosecution witness and former director of TIA and 1MDB, Tan Sri Ismee Ismail.

In this lawsuit, Najib faces charges of abuse of power and money laundering in connection with the embezzlement of over RM2 billion from 1MDB.

TIA was established on February 27, 2009, and its ownership was transferred from the Terengganu State Government through its Mentri Besar Incorporated to the Ministry of Finance Incorporated, owned by the Ministry of Finance, in August 2009. TIA was later renamed 1MDB on September 25, 2009.

During Ismee’s cross-examination today, Hariharan repeatedly sought to attribute wrongdoing to ninth prosecution witness Shahrol Azral in relation to TIA’s May 2009 RM5 billion bond issue or before TIA becomes 1MDB.

Shahrol had in fact already completed his testimony over a period of about 40 days from September 23, 2019 to September 3, 2020, but Hariharan repeatedly asked Ismee what Shahrol had done or could have done.

Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is pictured at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on September 3, 2020. ― Photo by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is pictured at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on September 3, 2020. ― Photo by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Today, Hariharan pointed out that TIA’s Board of Directors had signed a resolution on May 22, 2009 to suspend the issuance of RM5 billion bond or Islamic Medium Term Bond (IMTN) and to suspend Shahrol’s powers as CEO of TIA with respect to bond issuance.

Hariharan then presented several documents that Shahrol had signed later a few days later to enable the issuance of RM5 billion bonds, including a subscription agreement of May 25, 2009 and an “akad” agreement of May 26, 2009. which also had AmIslamic bank’s compliance department stamp on the coins. of the agreement.

Questioned by Hariharan on the basis of these documents alone, Ismee agreed that the agreements signed by Shahrol were contrary to the instructions of the TIA board of directors a few days earlier not to issue the bond and also agreed that the TIA did not had no authority to execute the agreements following the suspension of the TIA board. bonds of RM5 billion.

Hariharan then suggested that Shahrol had withheld the TIA board resolution of May 22, 2009 – which suspended the issuance of RM5 billion bonds – from AmIslamic, suggesting that the bank’s compliance is not would not have given its approval to the agreement of 26 May 2009.

Ismee, however, suggested that there might have been other documents shown at the AmIslamic bank.

“Yeah but I think normally banks would have to see certain documents before they enter into deals like this that’s why I think that’s why there’s Ambank’s approval on the clauses you have From what I understand, they may have looked at some documents represented by Datuk Shahrol in the bank,” he said, noting that documents should also be presented for something so simple as opening a bank account.

“So, I’m not sure, there could be other documents that Datuk Shahrol presented to the bank,” Ismee said.

Hariharan then suggested that there could be two possibilities that Shahrol either allegedly fabricated another resolution that said to go ahead with the RM5 billion bond issue, or withheld the May 22 resolution. which was suspending the issuance of bonds, but Deputy Prosecutor Mohamad Mustaffa P. Kunyalam then stood his ground. until objected.

High Court Judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah also pointed out that Shahrol had already “been confronted” when he testified as a prosecution witness in this trial, and also indicated that the questions to Ismee as a former council member should be those known to him.

Hariharan then sought to explain that he wanted to question the former board members about the events that took place and the documents signed by Shahrol.

Mustaffa, however, pointed out that Hariharan should also have presented the other parts of the court testimony to Ismee, such as Shahrol’s earlier testimony that Najib gave him the green light to proceed with the RM5 billion bonds.

“If so, the lawyer should be fair in addressing the witness because Shahrol said he received instructions from the defendant to sue IMTN. This should be presented to the witness,” Mustaffa said.

The judge then allowed the questions to be asked and suggested that the prosecution could raise these points to Ismee later.

Hariharan then went on to suggest that there had been ‘disobedience’ by Shahrol in signing the documents allowing the RM5 billion bond issue, but Ismee said he was unaware of this. this and also pointed to his own testimony.

“If you read my witness statement, after meeting Tuanku, Datuk Shahrol informed me or told me that this IMTN cannot be suspended, because we pressed the button,” Ismee said.

What the court has already heard

Earlier, in September 2019, Shahrol told the 1MDB trial that Terengganu leader Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin on May 22, 2009 ordered him and Ismee to sign a resolution to suspend the issuance of 5 billion bond. from RM.

Shahrol said he later informed Low Taek Jho about it and then went to Najib’s house the same day as Low ordered.

Shahrol also testified that Najib demanded an explanation about what happened earlier in the day at the Istana Terengganu in Kuala Lumpur, noting that Najib asked him to “go ahead” and proceed with fundraising RM5 billion saying, “Go ahead, I’ll talk to Tuanku”.

“I took this as an instruction and a mandate from the Prime Minister who is also the Minister of Finance to sue IMTN because he is the minister in charge of giving this government guarantee,” Shahrol testified at the time.

In November 2021, Ismee had testified at the 1MDB trial that Shahrol had —- after signing the TIA board resolution of May 22, 2009 to suspend the bond issuance —- told him that the bond issue could not be postponed because the instructions had already been delivered to the bond’s lead arranger, AmBank.

“Datuk Shahrol told me, ‘we have already pressed the button’,” Ismee said at the time.

Tan Sri Ismee Ismail is pictured at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on March 17, 2022. ― Photo by Hari Anggara
Tan Sri Ismee Ismail is pictured at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on March 17, 2022. ― Photo by Hari Anggara

Najib’s lawyer asks about Shahrol and Jho Low

Earlier, Hariharan also asked Ismee if he observed how close Shahrol was to Low during TIA meetings.

However, the judge pointed out that such questions would have already been put to Shahrol when he testified as a witness.

“This relationship between Shahrol and Jho Low, I think, would have been explored during Shahrol’s time at the helm, wouldn’t it?” asked the judge.

Hariharan said he wanted to establish this as there would be issues over Shahrol’s alleged wrongdoing in the RM5 billion bond issue, but the judge pointed out that Shahrol had already faced all these questions and said that Ismee might not be able to answer all of those questions. questions.

Hariharan continued to justify that he wanted to show through TIA directors what Shahrol had done contrary to Shahrol showing he was acting in the best interests of the company, then repeated his question to Ismee.

Hariharan: Did you observe, when you were on the board with Shahrol and in meetings with Jho Low, how they interacted, how close were they to Jho Low’s closeness to you?

Isme: I did not notice.

The trial resumes this afternoon.

Jon J. Epps