1MDB director had business ties with Jho Low’s family, court hears

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KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court in Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial heard today that one of the investment fund’s directors at the time was a business partner of Low Taek Jho’s father, Low Hock Peng.
Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said this when cross-examining the company’s former CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi on his knowledge of Ong Gim Huat’s background before the latter’s appointment to the board in 2010.
Shafee repeatedly questioned Shahrol on whether he had had doubts about Ong’s background and relationship with the Low family.
He also noted records by the Companies Commission of Malaysia showing that Ong and Hock Peng had been directors at a Penang property development company called Wonder Bay Sdn Bhd.
When asked whether Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, had introduced Ong, Shahrol said the tycoon had brought up his name but the prerogative to appoint board members lay with Najib as prime minister at the time.
He also said that Ong, who served as 1MDB’s risk management committee chairman, had acted in the company’s best interest.
“During my tenure, Ong gave me no reason to doubt his independence,” he said when asked whether the 1MDB management had conducted checks on Ong’s background and informed Najib about his link to the Low family.
However, Shafee said Jho Low had previously placed close associates such as Loo Ai Swan and Tang Keng Chee at 1MDB, adding that Ong’s independence was therefore questionable.
To this, Shahrol said: “I don’t think I am competent to judge his independence.”
High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah then told Shahrol to answer “no comment” if the issues raised in cross-examination are outside of his knowledge.
Shahrol also said he was summoned by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to testify on 1MDB and the PetroSaudi International joint venture as the bi-partisan committee had wanted to inquire about payments made to the oil company.
When asked by Shafee about his reluctance to provide PAC with the documents needed for its inquiry, Shahrol said he disagreed.
“We tried to comply with their requests as much as we could. They (PAC) are painting me as the scapegoat,” he said when asked about PAC’s recommendation that he be investigated.
The hearing will continue before Sequerah on Thursday.
Najib is currently standing trial for 25 charges of money laundering and abuse of power over alleged 1MDB funds amounting to RM2.28 billion deposited in his AmBank accounts between February 2011 and December 2014.
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