Shahrol told to leave the country to avoid PAC hearing

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 2): Former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi told the High Court here that he had meetings with former Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Datuk Seri Hasan Arifin after attending a PAC hearing in 2015 to be briefed on the contents of the report that was to be tabled in Parliament.

During examination-in-chief of the ninth prosecution witness yesterday, Shahrol said that he had several meetings prior and subsequent to the PAC hearing in 2015.

The meetings were hosted by Datuk Seri Ahmad Farid Ridzuan, who was at the time in charge of “image branding” for former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Shahrol said that initially, he was informed by his successor at 1MDB, Arul Kanda Kandasamy, that “someone from the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office)” had asked them to leave the country to avoid attending the hearing.

Shahrol then went to Singapore but he eventually returned to face the committee.

When senior Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram asked what was the purpose of the meetings, Shahrol said the pre-hearing meetings were intended to prepare him for the kind of questions to be asked during the hearing, while the post-hearing meetings were meant to discuss what the report was going to contain.

Sri Ram: What role did Hasan Arifin play in the meetings?

Shahrol: He was only present in a post-PAC hearing (meeting). He told me what were the thoughts of the committee and what was going into the report. Throughout all the meetings, the message was very strongly [conveyed] that it (the scandal) was a political attack against the PM and to downplay any role Datuk Seri Najib had in decision-making at 1MDB.

Hasan is the current member of Parliament for Rompin, and was the chairman of the PAC from October 2015 to April 2018.

At the time, he was nominated by Najib and appointed to the post by former Dewan Rakyat speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia.

Jho Low coached Shahrol before PAC hearing in 2010

It was also revealed that prior to the first PAC hearing in 2010, Shahrol was briefed by 1MDB mastermind Low Taek Jho (Jho Low).

The fugitive businessman gave him talking points to downplay the involvement of Najib and Jho Low in decision-making at 1MDB and its former subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd.

The talking points also stated that the scandal was a political attack against the prime minister.

Najib was the chairman of the board of advisers of 1MDB and chairman emeritus of SRC, with amendments to the memorandum and articles of association of these companies granting him absolute power over their operations.

At that time, Shahrol said, he also met with “one or two Barisan Nasional members of the PAC”.

For instance, he said, he met with Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan — who was a PAC member at the time — and discussed the kind of questions that the PAC would ask.

Shahrol’s testimony is part of the prosecution’s efforts to prove that Najib had acted to prevent the former 1MDB CEO from revealing his alleged criminal acts within the company, to the extent that he interfered in the process of the PAC hearings.

In his opening statement, Sri Ram said the prosecution will produce evidence to show that Najib took active steps to evade justice and cover up his criminal acts.

“He interfered with the course of investigation of this case, which has come to be known as the 1MDB scandal,” Sri Ram said.

Najib, who served as the chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisers, is currently facing 25 counts of money laundering and abuse of power over the alleged embezzlement of billions of ringgit belonging to the state-owned fund.

Yesterday, Sri Ram concluded Shahrol’s examination-in-chief. The hearing will resume on Monday.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on Oct 2, 2019.

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