1MDB Trial: Jho Low siphoned off US$1.83 bil of 1MDB funds – witness

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 (NNN-BERNAMA) — The High Court Thursday was told that fugitive businessman, Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, had siphoned off all in all US$1.83 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds over a span of three years, from 2009 to 2011.

Former 1MDB chief executive officer Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi confirmed the monies, were siphoned off by Jho Low in the form of Murabaha financing agreement totalling US$830 million and another US$700 million during the period of the failed joint venture between 1MDB and PetroSaudi International Ltd (PSI).

It was also revealed in March 2010, the US$1 billion equity in the joint venture was converted into Islamic Murabaha notes with 1MDB injecting a further US$500 million, which some of it went to 1MDB non-executive director, Patrick Mahony.

Shahrol Azral, 49, also confirmed that from the money trail, US$1.83 billion went to Jho Low.

Queried by Najib Razak’s defence lead counsel, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, the ninth prosecution witness revealed the strategic resource company had mistakenly sent to Jho Low’s Good Star US$700 million in Sept 2009 via Deutsche Bank and US$330 million in May 2010, via AmBank to Good Star as well.

“The bank had queried 1MDB when they found out the account number provided for the transfer did not match the name of the beneficiary intended by 1MDB, which was supposed to be PetroSaudi International Ltd.

“The bank account number ending with 2000, at JP Morgan Chase bank was provided by PetroSaudi International Ltd chief executive officer, Tarek Obaid when it actually belonged to Jho Low’s Good Star Ltd,” he said.

It was revealed in the earlier proceeding, in 2009, 1MDB had paid US$1 billion for a 40 per cent stake in the joint venture while PetroSaudi held the remaining 60 per cent. It was later revealed that PetroSaudi’s share was worth only US$108 million.

Muhammad Shafee then questioned the witness, on his position as 1MDB CEO, and Radhi Mohamad as the chief financial officer, would have learned from the past mistake that the account number belonged to Good Star.

Muhammad Shafee: 1MDB had made this mistake, at least twice now?

Shahrol Azral: It could be very likely we did not remember the Good Star account number from 2009. We had no suspicions that Good Star is not affiliated to PSI at that time. It was just an account number given to us by a trusted partner.

Muhammad Shafee: Speaking as the CEO in charge of 1MDB and sending a large sum of payment, but 1MDB kept making mistake after mistake. You were sending a lot of money, would it be at least amounted to negligence by 1MDB?

Shahrol Azral: I disagree.

Muhammad Shafee: There was no diligence on your part, you and your team?

Shahrol Azral: I disagree.

Shahrol Azral also told the High Court that Jho Low had insisted his company Good Star Ltd, is owned by PSI.

Disclosing the matter, the witness said he had asked Jho Low on the ownership of Good Star after a  news portal published a series of articles regarding the company in 2015.

“So I message Jho Low to ask him to explain what is going on. He insisted that Good Star is owned by PetroSaudi and Jho Low told me that he will get PetroSaudi to write a letter to confirm this,” he said.

Muhammad Shafee : That is what Jho Low told you 

Shahrol Azral : Yes 

Muhammad Shafee : You message him via BBM (BlackBerry Messenger)?

Shahrol Azral : At that time I don’t remember what medium I used. I don’t think was using blackberry anymore.

Muhammad Shafee: So this came from a series of articles in The Edge alone?

Shahrol Azral :  If I recall, (articles from) The Edge was the one that triggered me to contact Jho Low.

Asked by the lawyer what was the nature of allegation in the article,  the witness said that Good Star was owned by Jho Low.

He agreed with Muhammad Shafee that now the matter was untrue.

Muhammad Shafee also said the PSI had wrote the letter pertaining to the ownership of Good Star. He then read the content of the letter from PSI to Shahrol Azral .

The letter read: “On behalf of PetroSaudi International Ltd and the rest of the PetroSaudi Group, I confirm that all wire transfer from 1Malaysia Development Berhad and its affiliated group, 1MDB Group, have all been received by PetroSaudi. In addition, I wish to confirm from Sept 1, 2009, Good Star Ltd sole shares was held by PetroSaudi Group and this position remains unchanged.”

Muhammad Shafee: It was a very calculated, limited answer. 

Shahrol Azrol: At that time, I didn’t realise.

Muhammad Shafee: Do you realise now it was a very calculated, limited answer?

Shahrol Azral: Yes.

Muhammad Shafee: … to maintain, how shall I say, it was clinically correct but morally wrong.

Shahrol Azral : If you say so.

Najib, 66, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

The hearing before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues Monday with senior deputy public prosecutor and former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram leading the prosecution.

— NNN-BERNAMA