Wednesday, October 28, 2020

1MDB money-laundering trial recap: September 3 to 5

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There was an explosive testimony from Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, who was the former special officer to Datuk Seri Najib Razak, over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Following are the highlights of testimonies from Amhari Efendi, 43, at the trial before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah from Sept 3-5.

Najib, 66, is facing four charges of having used his positions to obtain gratification totalling RM2.3bil in 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money.

Najib, who is also Pekan MP, is alleged to have committed four counts of corruption at Jalan Raja Chulan branch of AmIslamic Bank Berhad, at No. 55, Jalan Raja Chulan, Bukit Ceylon here between Feb 24,2011, and Dec 19,2014.

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For the 21 money laundering charges, Najib is alleged to have committed the offences at the same bank between March 22,2013, and Aug 30,2013.

The trial before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues next Tuesday (Sept 10).

Day 3 (Sept 3)

Amhari Efendi tells the High Court that Low Taek Jho or Jho Low was the unofficial special advisor to the former prime minister as he carried out various behind-the-scene tasks including managing 1MDB, international programmes, working visits, business proposals and policies, as well as welfare work for Najib.

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Amhari Efendi, who was then with the Economics Division at the Prime Minister’s Office, says Jho Low also orchestrated investment dealings, inter-government or government-to-government (G2G) negotiations, political as well as fund manoeuvres for the former prime minister.

Related: Malaysia: Central bank to toughen laws on money laundering after 1MDB scandal

“Every directive given by Jho Low must be carried out because I believed he had obtained prior approval from Najib. I never questioned the directives, but sometimes when necessary, Datuk Azlin Alias, who was then Najib’s principal private secretary, or I myself, did refer to Najib for confirmation.

“Most of the time, I would be informed by Najib that the instructions given by Jho Low were approved by him, and Datuk Azlin also noted to me that Jho Low’s instructions once confirmed by Najib must be followed up, ” says Amhari Efendi when reading out his 77-page witness statement during the examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib.

The eighth prosecution witness testifies that Jho Low became very close to Najib’s family after befriending Najib’s stepson, Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, and he knew about it during his dealings with Jho Low where he informed him several times on how close he was to Najib’s family.

“To my knowledge, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor (Najib’s wife) was also very close to Jho Low as I noticed that he frequently received calls from Datin Seri Rosmah, but I never asked about the details of their conversations, ” he says, adding that it was Riza Aziz who introduced Jho Low to Rosmah.

Amhari Efendi, who is one of the key prosecution witnesses, tells the court that the exposure in 2015 that Riza Aziz had purchased luxury real estate and financed a Hollywood movie with1MDB funds affected Najib the most.

“Sarawak Report at that time showed that Riza received money from 1MDB and this affected Datuk Seri Najib as Riza is his stepson, ” he says.

The High Court is also told that the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) project, an idea mooted by Jho Low, was Najib’s “baby”.

Amhari Efendi says Jho Low had prepared five “damage control” letters after the 1MDB scandal blew up, to show proof that 1MDB and PetroSaudi had not acted out of line in their joint venture.

Day 4 (Sept 4)

On the opening of foreign account banks, Amhari Efendi testifies that “Jho Low also told us (he and Azlin) to be assured, not to worry, and to trust him, telling us that ‘boss will take care’.”

“The ‘boss’ he referred to was Najib. Datuk Azlin also expressed his unease but Jho Low reiterated that all these would be done above board, through proper documentation and using a well-known and reputable bank. Datuk Azlin just kept quiet. Jho Low said he would come back to us on this issue and left the meeting”.

He says the bank accounts ordered to be opened overseas were likely for money laundering purposes to receive political funds for Najib in facing the 13th general election (GE13) in 2013, and Jho Low ordered him and Azlin to open separate foreign bank accounts.

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The witness also says that Najib had knowledge of and had given the mandate to Jho Low to plan and handle efforts to save the debt-ridden 1MDB and its subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd.

Related: Malaysia ex-PM Najib Razak use ‘elaborate’ plan to loot fund: prosecutor

He says following that, on Nov 1 and 2,2016, Najib went on an official visit to China with a goal to pursue Malaysia-China joint-venture projects with a number of companies.

Amhari Efendi tells the High Court that China State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (Sasac) and China State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) were supposed to finalise the agreement to settle the debt issue facing 1MDB and its subsidiary SRC before the end of July or August 2016.

He says the matter was decided at a meeting held in China on June 28,2016, with Sasac.

He also says he felt very pressured when he was instructed by Najib to travel to China to conduct confidential work to facilitate the bailout of 1MDB in June 2016.

“Datuk Seri Najib himself asked me to go to his residence in Jalan Langgak Duta to discuss this matter, explaining that the trip would be arranged by Jho Low.

“I had to comply although at the time I was under intense pressure and had thoughts of stopping work because these orders were placing a great burden on me, more so since Datuk Azlin was no longer there (Azlin had died on April 4,2015).

“Nevertheless, I had to follow his (Najib) orders because he was my boss, what more, he was the Prime Minister of Malaysia, ” recounts Amhari Efendi, looking visibly distraught.

The witness also tells the High Court that the former prime minister instructed him to meet with Mubadala chief executive officer Khaldoon Mubarak in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in 2016 to discuss settling 1MDB’s bond dispute with International Petroleum Investment Co (Ipic) without going to the International Court.

Related: Jho Low Fights to Reclaim Family Mansion Seized in 1MDB Case

He says Najib also told him that if Malaysia were to go to the international court for failing to pay the bonds guaranteed by Ipic, bilateral relations between the two countries would deteriorate.

He adds that Jho Low had prepared the questions that were expected to be asked by several quarters, including the media, together with damage control answers on 1MDB, which was then widely reported by the mass media.

Day 5 (Sept 5)

Amhari Efendi maintains he had personally witnessed the closeness of their (Jho Low and Najib) relationship, where Jho Low went to Najib’s house more frequently than anyone else.

He also describes Jho Low as a puppet master as he could manipulate anyone, regardless of status, and was able to engage different people at different places to get what he wanted.

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