KUALA LUMPUR: “You can talk about the legalities and all that... but it was not how 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) was run.
“From the time I joined to the time I left, I saw Najib as the ultimate power in 1MDB... Yes, I can say he was the Emperor of 1MDB.”
That was how former chief executive of the sovereign wealth fund, Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, described his former boss, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Shahrol, who was 1MDB CEO from 2009 to 2013, has been under fire non-stop over his role as CEO of the fund since Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah started cross-examining him from earlier this month.
The 49-year-old has been put under the hammer for constantly saying he did not bother checking anything he was asked to do as he believed it had all been approved by Najib.
He maintained his stand today as the cross-examination continued.
Shahrol even admitted putting his name to minutes of a meeting which contained lies.
“I trusted that Jho Low and Najib were working for the best of the country and that 1MDB was just a vehicle to achieve this,” he said in reply to a question about the fraudulent minutes.
Asked to explain the minutes of the meeting which took place on March 30, 2011, Shahrol was questioned if he had indeed signed a document in which untruths were written.
To this, Shahrol said: “I agree that this is not a truthful record, but I signed it because Jho Low was working with Najib on these matters.”
Earlier, Shafee asked Shahrol to explain his understanding of Najib’s powers in 1MDB.
The lead counsel in Najib’s team confronted the key prosecution witness on the role of the 1MDB board of directors and also Shahrol’s own responsibility as the top gun in the fund.
Shafee: I want to ask you this. Can Najib one day walk into 1MDB’s office, call you up and say I want you to do this and that?
Shahrol: Yes, he was the PM... there is no way we can refuse him
Shafee: Have you been in the board of any other company prior to 1MDB?
Shafee: Before you held a position so high as the CEO of a sovereign wealth fund, surely you would have been taught how a CEO acts
Shahrol: I was appointed and had clear responsibilities. As far as I was concerned 1MDB works on the instructions of the PM, in any one of the three hats he wore (as prime minister, finance minister and sole shareholder of 1MDB under the Minister of Finance Incorporated)
Shafee then goes on to lecture Shahrol on provisions under the Companies Act which clearly states that the business and affairs of a company must be managed by, or under the direction of the board.
“What this means is as a matter of legality, the board of directors make all the decisions.
“Do you get this?,” he asked.
In reply, Shahrol said: “I can only say what happened at that time. The minutes were instructions from the PM and we were duty bound to implement them.”
Shafee: You are saying that despite what I said about the legalities, it was different from what transpired in 1MDB
Shahrol: Yes, from the time I joined to the time I left, I saw Najib as the ultimate power in 1MDB
Shafee: But the power to make the decisions is in the board
Shahrol: In practice that was not how it happened in 1MDB
Shafee: That is why 1MDB went down the drain!
Shahrol: My answer is that it wasn’t like that in 1MDB. For example, in the case of the joint venture agreement with PetroSaudi International Ltd (PSI), things would not have been rushed but they were because that is how Najib wanted it to be
Shafee: I am putting it to you that you have the wrong interpretation of it all. You have just made him look like an Emperor... like the good old days in India... one man decides on everything, No checks and balances
Shahrol: In the case of 1MDB, he was
Shafee: You just made him an Emperor
Shafee will continue with the cross-examination on Monday.
Najib, 66, is accused of misappropriating RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds, money laundering and abuse of power.
The trial is being conducted before High Court Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah, with Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram leading the prosecution team.