By the time the scandal broke out in the foreign media, the Malaysian sovereign fund 1MDB had already amassed a debt of RM30 billion and the chaos in the media prompted the board to urge Prime Minister Najib Razak to resign.
A key witness in the 1MDB trial in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, 49, said the company was fully owned by the Finance Ministry and the government bore the massive debt amassed.
At that time, in 2015-2016, the government did not agree that 1MDB had amassed massive debts while the opposition was criticising Najib for his mishandling of public funds.
In 2017, Dr Mahathir Mohamad (who is now the Prime Minister of Malaysia) queried Najib on 1MDB’s debt, which he said could amount to RM40 billion.
The Malaysian government under Dr Mahathir last year said the previous regime of Najib Razak had secretly deployed money from the central bank and a sovereign fund to pay down debt obligations of 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
In court yesterday, lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram questioned the key witness.
At one point he said, “After the furore regarding the 1MDB issue between 2015 and 2016, the 1MDB board unanimously suggested that former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should resign, though we were ordered to stay on until a new board was elected in 2016.”
He was reading from a 270-page witness statement.
In this case, the former PM faces 25 charges in total – four for abuse of power that allegedly brought him financial benefit to the tune of RM2.3bil, and 21 for money laundering involving the same amount of money and imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the gratification if found guilty.
The defence team of Najib Razak will cross-examine the witness next Monday. -/TISG