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Shahrol says Jho Low gave him four cheques totalling US$100m from Arab princes for safekeeping

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 27): Four cheques issued by members of the Arab royal family that were made out to Yayasan 1MDB, dated 2010 for US$25 million each but never cashed, were produced in the High Court here by the prosecution during Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak's 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial yesterday.

The prosecution suggested that the cheques, purportedly issued by Prince Saud Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Prince Faisal Turki and allegedly handed to fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, could have been used to disguise the source of the over RM2 billion worth of funds that was found in the former premier's account.

Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi told the court he received the cheques from Low, widely known as Jho Low, for safekeeping.

“Sometime in September 2010, I received the cheques from Jho Low. He asked me to hold the cheques for safekeeping and not to cash them. There were no further instructions from him about them.

“The cheques were issued in the name of Yayasan 1MDB. At the end of my tenure as CEO, I handed the cheques to [the company's] finance [department] for safekeeping,” the witness said when questioned by former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, the senior deputy public prosecutor in the case.

When asked about the context of the cheques' issuance, Shahrol said it was after 1MDB started its joint venture with Petrosaudi in September 2009 — "around the time we converted the equity in the joint venture to the Murabaha notes".

“Jho (Jho Low) informed me that the Saudi royal family wanted to donate US$100 million to Yayasan 1MDB. I remember he asked me to whom (the name) to issue the cheques. I remember making enquiries with AmBank on the right name to put on the cheques,” he said.

Shahrol went on to say that the cheques were never cashed, when Sri Ram questioned him if they had been.

The former Federal Court judge had, in his opening statement at the start of the trial, said when the 1MDB scandal broke in early 2015, Najib, together with his "mirror image" Jho Low, took steps to cover his alleged money laundering by producing sham documents to pretend a donation came from an Arab prince.

“Among these were letters and four cheques, each for a sum of US$25 million, purportedly written out by a person said to be the Arab donor. But these cheques were never meant to be encashed and were never encashed. The prosecution will also produce evidence to show that the accused took active steps to evade justice. He interfered with the course of the investigation of this case, which has come to be known as the 1MDB scandal,” Sri Ram said then.

Najib is facing four counts of abuse of power as the then Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and 1MDB board of adviser chairperson, together with 21 charges of money-laundering involving RM2.28 billion of 1MDB monies.

The former premier has repeatedly claimed that the billions he received in his account were donations from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The hearing before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues on Monday with Shahrol's continued examination in chief.

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