Witness nasi goreng tale suggests close ties between Najib and Jho Low

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 – It was a light moment at the High Court today when it was told of a tale of nasi goreng as former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chief executive officer (CEO) tried to describe the reason why he trusted fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low and the latter’s close relationship with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, 50, said he was quite well known for his ability to make the best nasi goreng and he had prepared the dish for Jho Low before.

“Jho asked me if he could bring some for Datuk Seri Najib and I made him some to give to the former premier. He brought me feedback that Datuk Seri liked my nasi goreng, but I never get the chance to ask Datuk Seri personally,” he said.

The ninth prosecution witness said this during cross-examination by Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah representing Najib, who is facing corruption and money laundering charges involving RM2.3 billion of 1MDB funds.

Shahrol Azral, who was 1MDB CEO from 2009 until 2013, said that was one of the events that gave him comfort knowing that Jho Low had access to Najib’s home at any time.

He said that Jho Low had also passed him the (telephone) numbers of Najib’s assistants in Najib’s Langgak Duta home.

“These are the small things that built up over time that made me believe that there is a very close relationship (between Najib and Jho Low),” the witness added.

Muhammad Shafee: Did Najib ever said to you that that nasi goreng was good?.

Shahrol Azral: No, he did not.

Muhammad Shafee: So you had full confidence in Jho Low. Nothing made you question him?

Shahrol Azral: Yes.

The lawyer then proceeded to ask the witness several more questions but went back to the fried rice, saying that he was also impressed with the story.

“One day, I will make it for you,” Shahrol Azral responded.

Earlier, Shahrol Azral also said neither the management or the 1MDB board of directors had seen the financial documents or audited account of Petrosaudi Oil Services Ltd (PSOSL) after 1MDB’s stakes acquisition from the company in early 2012.

The stakes were supposedly a part of the liquidation process for 1MDB’s Murabahah notes that it had in a joint-venture with PetroSaudi International (PSI International), which however was sold to Bridge Partners International Investments.

The selling off of 1MDB 49 per cent stake in PSOSL to Bridge Partners also involved Jho Low, 1MDB general counsel Jasmine Loo and was allegedly authorised by Najib.

Muhammad Shafee: I put it to you, this is an elaborate scam, no doubt by Jho Low, but it cannot operate alone without minions under him, including you and Jasmine, and the management placed nicely by Jho Low.

Shahrol Azral: I disagree.

Muhammad Shafee: It is unlikely that the (then) PM (Najib) was involved because he himself was conned. He had to trust the management, he cannot micromanage.

Shahrol: I cannot comment on what the PM knows or doesn’t know.

Najib, 67, faces four charges of abusing his position to obtain gratification totalling RM2.3bil in 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money.

The trial before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues June 4.

– BERNAMA