It was meant to be a sovereign wealth fund but the scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) was already RM30 billion in debt by 2013, a mere five years after it was established. -- NSTP/NURUL SHAFINA JEMENON

KUALA LUMPUR: It was meant to be a sovereign wealth fund but the scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) was already RM30 billion in debt by 2013, a mere five years after it was established.

1MDB former chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi said that was the level of debts the fund had accumulated by the time he left on March 16, 2013.

He said all the company's debts ultimately became the government's headache as 1MDB was wholly owned by the Finance Ministry.

The debts, he said, included RM5 billion bonds issued by the company and guaranteed by the Finance Ministry, and US$3.5 billion bonds which were also guaranteed by the ministry, apart from other loans.

Shahrol, who was 1MDB CEO from 2009 to 2013, and its board member from 2013 to 2016, said former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak never once enquired about the billions which had been disbursed to various parties.

He said this never happened even after news of the 1MDB scandal became public in 2014.

"He never asked me or any of the board members. No meetings were held...nothing," he said when questioned by lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram.

Shahrol, 49, said he now realised that the pattern of leakages from 1MDB from 2009 through to 2013 has always been to borrow funds for projects that were ostensibly good for the nation and to siphon some of the borrowed funds.

"Throughout the years, the method used by the perpetrators has been refined and tightened up, in the sense that the talking points and mandated tight timelines for fundraising leave less and less room for discussion at the 1MDB management and board," he said.

Shahrol said he was eventually ordered to be moved to Pemandu (another government agency) on March 15, 2013.

"I suspect that I was removed from 1MDB because I used to express my unhappiness about how speedily deals were being cut.

"After my removal from 1MDB, I was still retained on the board. Jho Low (fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho) said it was to manage optics," he said.

Shahrol said after the public outrage over the 1MDB scandal, the entire board of the fund offered to resign but Najib wanted them to stay on until new directors were appointed in 2016.

Najib, 66, is facing 25 charges of receiving RM2.28 billion which originated from 1MDB, money laundering and abuse of power charges.

The trial before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues on Monday.