Kuala Lumpur—A close associate of former Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak took the stand on Day 3 of the 1MDB trial on Tuesday, September 3, and described Mr Najib and his wife’s relationships with the fugitive banker at the heart of the scandal, Low Taek Jho, more commonly known as Jho Low.
The High Court, presided by Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah, heard the testimony of 43-year-old Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, a former special officer to the Prime Minister, who had been an aide to Mr Najib for 10 years.
Mr Amhari said that the former First Lady, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, always made contact with Mr Low, although he was uncertain as to what their communication was about.
He recounted that Mr Low first became intimate with the Najibs due to his friendship with Shahriz Abdul Aziz, Madam Rosmah’s son (Mr Najib’s stepson).
According to Mr Amhari, “Rosmah had no objections to Jho Low getting close to them. He was young, but he had charisma and incredible power.
Every order given by Jho Low would be undertaken by everyone. He was like the unofficial advisor to Najib for many matters, including politics and funds received by Najib.”
Mr Amhari is a Bank Negara scholar and graduate of economics from the University of Warwick. He graduated in 1999, and the worked at the economy department of Malaysia’s Central Bank. In 2006, he was seconded to the Economic Planning Unit under the Prime Minister’s Department, and worked under former minister Datuk Seri Mohd Effendi Norwawi.
But early in 2008 he had gone back to Bank Negara. Two months after his return, Datuk Wan Shihab, then a special officer to Mr Najib, reached out to him and invited him to an interview for the position of special officer.
By September to 2008, he reported to work as a special officer to then Deputy Prime Minister Najib. At that time, Mr Low sent him a message via text, saying “Bro, I heard you are in TPM Office, congratulations and we will be closely in touch”.
Mr Amhari testified that Mr Low had many tasks behind the scenes, which included managing 1MDB, international programmes, working visits, business proposals and policies, as well as welfare work for Najib, investment dealings, negotiations both intergovernmental and government-to-government, political machinations, and fund maneuvers for Mr Najib, according to a report from Bernama.
He said, “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.”
Mr Low also told him and Mr Azlin to carry out Mr Najib’s directives.
“Apart from us, there were other individuals in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) who were at Jho Low’s command and most of the instructions would be executed because, although Jho Low is young, he has charisma and commands extraordinary authority.
There were times when special instructions involving confidential matters were given to Datuk Azlin or me by Jho Low and I made sure those instructions had been conveyed or known and agreed to by Najib himself.
I say that because most of the time, Datuk Azlin or I will check with Najib on the instructions given to us by Jho Low and we found that he was aware of the instructions, and at times, he agreed with the instructions given by Jho Low and ordered us to do it.”
The former Prime Minister is facing 21 counts of money laundering as well as four counts of abuse of power. According to prosecutors, Mr Najib covered up and received illegal transfers for at least RM2.3 billion (S$ 764 million) from the year 2011 through 2014./ TISG