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1MDB-Tanore trial: Shahrol another recipient of Jho Low's BlackBerry

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 7): Just like ex-premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak's former special officer Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi (pictured) also was gifted BlackBerry phones by fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) to discuss 1MDB matters outside of the official channels, the High Court heard today.

Shahrol told the court that he received at least two BlackBerrys from Jho Low — a BlackBerry Bold model that was not yet released in Malaysia when the witness received it, and the other which Shahrol donated as a lucky draw present at one of 1MDB's dinners.

Shahrol said the reason for this communication method — records of which Shahrol has deleted — was because Jho Low once told him: "We don't know who we can trust, we need to protect the boss [Najib], keep it secure."

"Ever since what he (Jho Low) termed as a political attack [against Najib] intensified in 2014 onwards, he would use BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) or Skype for voice calls, but never through the normal channels," said Shahrol.

He, however, gave away those devices, and deleted the content without keeping back-ups. None of his devices have been seized by the authorities, Shahrol added, when asked by Najib's defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.

Shahrol, who is the ninth prosecution witness in the 1MDB-Tanore trial, has testified of receiving talking points from Jho Low, who was the person that invited him on board 1MDB since its early days as Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) in 2009.

The political attack Shahrol referred to was the revelation about 1MDB's dealings beginning in 2014, which gained international media attention in 2015 when it was reported that RM2.6 billion was siphoned out of the state-owned fund and that Jho Low and Saudi-based PetroSaudi Ltd (PSI) allegedly cheated 1MDB of billions of US dollars.

Shahrol, who served as CEO of TIA and 1MDB from 2009 to March 2013, was involved in 1MDB's major business deals including with PSI, Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investment PJS, and the power asset acquisitions in 2012.

At the trial, Shahrol denied any knowledge of whether he could be charged by the authorities in relation with 1MDB. He is currently on travel ban.

Amhari, the eighth prosecution witness in the trial, had earlier testified that he is facing a travel ban as well. The ex-special officer, who testified of working with Jho Low to negotiate 1MDB bailouts with China and Abu Dhabi, also told the court that he was a recipient of BlackBerry phones from Jho Low as well.

Another person who allegedly received a BlackBerry from Jho Low was former AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu, who testified in the SRC International Sdn Bhd trial that she dealt with Jho Low to manage Najib's personal AmBank accounts in 2011-2014.

SRC International, from which Najib was alleged to have received RM42 million, was a unit of 1MDB at the time.

In the 1MDB-Tanore trial, Najib is facing 25 counts of money laundering and abuse of power for allegedly receiving billions of ringgit of 1MDB funds into his account. The trial continues tomorrow.

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