Kuala Lumpur—As the 1MDB trial progresses, more details of fugitive Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho’s (more commonly known as Jho Low) deep involvement in the daily lives of former Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor, to the point that ideas for national wealth funds were churned out from his kitchen.
Economist and former special aide to Mr Najib, Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, told the court on September 3 about how he was told that the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) turned from a wealth fund to a federal investment firm in Jho Low’s kitchen.
The TIA had sprung, as far as he understood, from a partnership between the Terengganu government and the federal government that aimed to generate funds via foreign investments.
He said, “I was made to understand the initial idea behind the formation of TIA involved fundraising, which was explained to me by Jho himself at his home located in Apartment 3 Kia Peng. During the explanation, Jho made sketches on a whiteboard that was in his kitchen.”
The fugitive banker told Mr Amhari that the TIA was initially thought to be a sovereign wealth fund, which is an idea used by a company from Abu Dhabi but was fully owned by the government of the UAE.
He continued, “At that time, Jho mentioned how this matter needed to be executed because it was under the instructions of Datuk Seri Najib, while also being a ‘baby’ project to Datuk Seri Najib through Jho’s ideas.”
Mr Amhari added that Low, and not the former Prime Minister, wanted him to be part of TIA, because of his work as an economist and his experience at Bank Negara Malaysia.
“Towards the end of 2008, I received a message from Jho (Low) via BBM(Blackberry Messenger) that roughly said, ‘I’ve got approval/blessing from Datuk Seri Najib for you to join meeting for TIA’.
I was told to also be present in meetings to discuss the formation of TIA to be a representative of Datuk Seri Najib who at that time was the deputy prime minister and finance minister,” he said.
Mr Amhari took the stand again on September 4, telling the High Court that Mr Low had told him that Mr Najib would be his and the former Prime Minister’s then secretary Datuk Azlin Alias’ protector if any question should be raised over bank accounts they opened for the wealth funds.
“Jho Low also told us to be assured, not to worry and to trust him, telling us that ‘boss will take care.’
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.”
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
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