1MDB trial: Witness says received RM160,000 bonus for joining fund’s predecessor, quizzed if CEO like postman

Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court October 7, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court October 7, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 — Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi today told the court he had taken a two-month bonus totalling RM160,000 for signing on in March 2009 to join 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) predecessor Terengganu Investment Authority Berhad (TIA) as CEO.

Shahrol explained that he had asked for the bonus even before starting work at TIA as he had to pay his then employer Accenture for leaving without serving notice.

“I needed to negotiate for sign-on bonus because I needed to leave immediately in lieu of notice,” he said during Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s corruption trial over 1MDB money.

Shahrol explained that he had to pay Accenture about three months’ worth of his monthly salary as senior executive of almost RM30,000 (or a total of about RM90,000) for leaving abruptly to join TIA.

While the RM160,000 sign-on bonus was more than the required payment to Accenture, Shahrol said he also sacrificed by letting go of his stock options in Accenture to provide future conflict of interest if the consultancy firm was engaged by TIA in the future, noting that the shares values have doubled by now.

Shahrol was responding to questions by Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who quizzed Shahrol on his RM80,000 monthly pay as TIA CEO.

Shahrol said businessman Low Taek Jho was his only interface with TIA at that time, adding that the latter had mooted the RM80,000 figure: “I asked Jho what would be something that is acceptable so he suggested that figure.”

After TIA was renamed as 1MDB in late 2009, Shahrol continued serving as 1MDB CEO until March 2013.

Shahrol reaffirmed he had received “performance-based” bonuses including an 18-month bonus as 1MDB CEO, noting that his highest bonus during his 13 years in Accenture was between five to seven months.

Later in the afternoon, Shahrol said he drew a monthly salary of around RM90,000 when he moved to government efficiency agency Pemandu in March 2013, with the wages payable by 1MDB. He worked in Pemandu until 2017.

Shahrol also confirmed he took a cut to his monthly pay that was then reduced to RM70,000 when he moved to government-linked firm Malaysia Petroleum Resources Corporation (MPRC) which was paid by MPRC itself. He worked in MPRC until July 4, 2018.

Shahrol, now 49, is currently unemployed.

Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court October 7, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court October 7, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

CEO role

Shafee then repeatedly questioned Shahrol on his role as CEO in TIA, with Shahrol confirming that he knew the nature of business that TIA would be involved in as a sovereign wealth fund.

Shafee suggested that Shahrol would not have taken on the position if he was to be merely a postman.

Shafee: You would not accept a job that you are not capable of doing at least at that stage? Surely your pride wouldn’t have allowed that. ‘I wouldn’t accept that job if I’m going to be a postman for somebody’.

Shahrol: At that time, I did feel this was a stretch role. My strengths are in building a team, looking at systems and processes. And I knew someone would have to help me with the financing aspect — it was clear at that time in good hands with Jho and Casey (Tang). That’s why I took the role because a CEO’s role is not to do everything himself.

Shahrol said he believed a CEO’s role is to build a team that preferably had members who are better than the CEO and then do the required work.

When asked by Shafee if he agreed that a CEO’s role is not to be a “postman” that takes instructions and assuming the instructions are right, Shahrol then spoke of how a CEO has to listen to stakeholders.

“Well, a CEO’s role is to listen and understand the mandate given to him and directors and or stakeholders and he is supposed to go and execute the mandate,” Shahrol replied.

Najib’s ongoing 1MDB trial involves 25 criminal charges - four counts of abusing his position for his own financial benefit totalling almost RM2.3 billion allegedly originating from 1MDB and the resulting 21 counts of money-laundering.

MORE TO COME

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