Out of the three people she named, only Shahrol is in the country while Tang and Nik Faisal are still at large.
KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 15): Former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz revealed that BNM had suggested charging former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, as well as two other members of its management.
Testifying as the 46th witness at Datuk Seri Najib Razak's 1MDB-Tanore trial, she said the central bank also recommended charging former executive director Casey Tang and ex-chief investment officer Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil.
She had previously testified that BNM had sent an investigation paper (IP) to the then attorney general Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali in 2016, where she recommended initiating criminal prosecution and to charge senior officers of 1MDB. However, she had never named them prior to this.
Of the three people she named, only Shahrol is in the country while Tang and Nik Faisal are still at large.
She revealed these names during cross-examination by Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who then asked her about the role Najib had played in 1MDB, and if the management was responsible for wrongdoings in the sovereign wealth fund with regards to a US$1 billion transfer.
In 2009, the 1MDB board had directed that US$1 billion be deposited into the accounts of 1MDB PetroSaudi Ltd, the fund’s joint venture (JV) company with PetroSaudi International Ltd.
Ignoring the board’s directive, however, 1MDB’s management abided by the instructions of PSI’s law firm instead and transferred the money in two separate tranches — US$300 million to the JV firm’s Swiss-based JPMorgan account and US$700 million to a company called Good Star Ltd, which belonged to fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low.
Shafee then had another heated exchange with Zeti regarding Najib’s role in allowing the money to leave to these entities and BNM’s role in approving the remittance of the funds out of the country.
“The role he (Najib) had was submitting the guarantee to the Cabinet for the financing for this project (the JV with PetroSaudi). That is one of the reasons why BNM approved. [It was] approved by the 1MDB board and [the] government approved financing. Not only that, the government provided a guarantee so that was his role,” she replied.
Shafee then said: “But you are not suggesting that the role was done by him, he did it with dishonest intention [...].”
Zeti answered that the taskforce had investigated the transactions and found that there was no such investment and that 1MDB was a company owned entirely by the Ministry of Finance.
Shafee then retorted that 1MDB was not a typical “Chinese family business or Indian newspaper business” and as prime minister, Najib cannot be overseeing all details of the fund.
Zeti countered that Najib was on the board of advisors of 1MDB, which is an executive position.
“1MDB is 100% owned by MOF, are you saying that MOF is unaware of its investment?” she asked Shafee.
Shafee replied that he was not saying that Najib was unaware of the investment, but that he was unaware of the investment going towards a fake entity.
Shafee then blamed the central bank for the remittance of the money to the wrong entity.
Zeti then reiterated that the responsibility for the remittance of the funds did not lie with BNM, but with the financial institution or commercial bank making the transaction.
According to her, the financial institution has to undertake due diligence and is required to submit the international transaction information system (ITIS) report.
Shafee then asked her again about her husband and children’s transactions, in relation to funds from Jho Low.
"You are going with the same rhetoric, surely Najib was the finance minister, he should know. Can I ask you the same thing? Your husband and your two children, you have a closer nexus to them, surely you are in the same house? Surely you know what they do with their accounts?"
Zeti replied that she did not monitor accounts that she was not involved with and was not accountable for them.
Zeti was BNM governor from 2000 to 2016. She will continue being reexamined by Shafee when the trial continues before Judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah on Wednesday (Aug 16).
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