Friday, October 30, 2020

1MDB Money Laundering Case: Government hearings on 1MDB were a farce, court told

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The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearings on the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) fiasco in 2010 and 2015 were nothing short of a farce, it was revealed in the High Court today.

Everyone from then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, PAC chairman Datuk Seri Hassan Ariffin and Barisan Nasional (BN) member of parliament Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, along with fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho. Jho Low had conspired to plot the outcome of the hearings.

Hassan and Rahman, it was exposed, even met a witness to discuss what the latter needed to say when called to testify at the hearings.

There were audible gasps of shock in the public gallery of the courtroom when it was exposed that such meetings were organised by Najib’s then Communications Advisor Datuk Seri Ahmad Farid Redzuan.

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The meetings were held in Farid’s house in Hartamas, not far from the court building where Najib now sits in the dock answering allegations of swindling 1MDB to the tune of RM2.28 billion.

Another shocking fact that was exposed was how someone from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had directed then 1MDB chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi to make himself unavailable to attend the PAC hearings.

Shahrol, who revealed all this in court today, said he flew to Singapore after being told that he should not attend the hearings in 2015.

The 49-year old, who admitted that Najib used to be impressed by his work in 1MDB, did not turn to look at his former boss even once while giving his testimony.

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Najib listened attentively as Shahrol laid bare the can of worms on how the PAC hearings were conducted as lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram took him through his testimony.

Shahrol, who spoke without hesitation in English, revealed that Low had briefed him before he was called in by the police and Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) to have his statement recorded in 2015 and 2016.

“Jho Low gave me the talking points on what I should say when questioned.

“His briefing basically underlined two main themes…number one was to minimise and downplay Najib and his own role in the decision making process of SRC International (former subsidiary of 1MDB) and 1MDB.

“Number two, he wanted me to say that all this was nothing but a political attack against the prime minister,” Shahrol, who was 1MDB CEO from 2009 to 2013, and a board member of the sovereign wealth fund from 2013 to 2016, said.

Sri Ram: Now I want to take you through the PAC hearings. Did you attend these hearings in 2010?

Shahrol: Yes I did.

Sri Ram: Were there any briefings held for you before you attended the hearings?

Shahrol: Yes, I was given talking points by Jho Low on what will be covered by the PAC. He also arranged for me to meet with one of the BN member of parliament. I met with Rahman Dahlan and we talked about the kind of questions the PAC will be dealing with.

Sri Ram: So on the day of the hearings, were the same questions asked?

Shahrol: Yes, roughly the same. The theme was to downplay Najib and Jho Low’s role in the decision making process.

Sri Ram: The idea was to insulate Najib and Jho Low?

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Shahrol: Yes

Sri Ram: Did you attend the second PAC hearings in 2015?

Shahrol: I recall that I was once issued a letter to attend, I and also Arul Kanda (former president and CEO of 1MDB). However, Arul informed me that there was an instruction from PMO to travel overseas so that we will not be able to attend.

Sri Ram: Did you go?

Shahrol: Yes, I flew to Singapore

Sri Ram: When you say PMO, anyone in particular?

Shahrol: That was what Arul said. I don’t know who in particular. It was Arul who spoke to someone from PMO.

Sri Ram: Was there also a briefing?

Shahrol: Yes, the talking points were the same but this time I also received instructions to go to Farid’s house. The instructions were from Arul or Jho Low…I can’t remember who exactly. Farid was in charge of image branding for Najib…he was attached to the PMO.

Sri Ram: You were asked to meet him?

Shahr

ol: I was asked to go to his house…somewhere in Hartamas. It was in the evening and it was a series of meetings, before and after the PAC hearings. During these meetings, some of the PAC members were also in attendance at his house. They included the PAC chairman, Hassan Ariffin.

Sri Ram: What was the purpose of the meetings?

Shahrol: To prepare for the kind of questions and also what the report was going to contain.

Sri Ram: You mean Hassan Ariffin, the chairman was present?

Shahrol: Yes

Sri Ram: What role did he play?

Shahrol: He was there during the post PAC hearings. He disclosed what he was going to do. Throughout the meetings, the messsage was that this was a political attack against the prime minister, and to downplay any role he and Jho Low had in the decision-making process.

Sri Ram: Now this gentleman Farid Redzuan, he came from the PMO

Shahrol: Yes, he was attached to the PMO

Sri Ram: Who was his immediate superior?

Shahrol: It was Najib, the accused.

Najib, 66, is facing four charges of having used his position to obtain gratification totalling RM2.28 billion and also 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money.

The trial before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah will continue on Monday.

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