KUALA LUMPUR — Sept. 3, 2020: The negative and critical coverage of problems affecting sovereign fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad which started in the international press in 2015 was seen to be bad enough that it was deemed to be crucial the image of then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had to be protected.
This was said to be the consensus by officials from Najib’s office, the Public Accounts Committee answerable to Parliament, officers from the finance ministry of which Najib was also the minister, Barisan Nasional politicians as well as fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.
This was the impression mentioned by former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi today when re-examined by prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram.
According to Shahrol, people from the MoF had even used the phrase “must protect the PM”.
Besides Jho Low, among those in the PM’s Office who spoke on the need to protect Najib were his communications advisor Datuk Seri Ahmad Farid Ridzuan and Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazarudin, Najib’s former special officer.
Shahrol said the discussion on protecting the prime minister was also held at Farid’s house, with a few BN politicians in attendance, including then PAC chairman Datuk Seri Hasan Arifin.
Najib, 67, is facing 25 counts of abuse of power and money laundering involving RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds which were deposited into his accounts between 2011 and 2014.
During cross-examination earlier, Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah suggested that Shahrol had committed serious offences and could have been sued by the company or charged with criminal breach of trust but Shahrol disagreed with the suggestion put to him, adding that his passport was never seized by the authorities and he came to know earlier in the year that in fact he was free to travel.
The trial continues before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah.