Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Day Four

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Najib was in the know and had given the mandate to Jho Low to plan and manage bailout efforts on debts and losses incurred by 1MDB and SRC.

9.42am: Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah is presiding over several 1MDB forfeiture suit case managements.

After these matters are dispensed with, Sequerah will then preside over Najib Razak’s RM2.28 billion 1MDB trial.

The former prime minister is seen waiting outside the court, and will enter after the 1MDB forfeiture suit case managements are dispensed with.

10.02am: The judge allows a short break upon conclusion of case management.

10.22am: Najib enters the dock.

Miera Zulyana

Proceedings resume with examination-in-chief of Najib’s former special officer.

10.24am: The hearing starts with eighth prosecution witness, Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, testifying about a document tendered in court concerning 1MDB’s cooperation with PetroSaudi Internationa.

According to Amhari, the document explains the authenticity of the PSI company owned by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah’s son Prince Turki.

He tells the court that the document stresses the benefits of the investment to Malaysia, and contains five supporting letters to show that the company is legitimate.

“This document is in my possession because Azlin (Alias) had possibly handed them to me after our six-eyed meeting, and this is my copy that I did not dispose of,” he testifies.

Amhari is referring to the late Azlin Alias, former chief private secretary to Najib, and their meeting with Jho Low.

The witness tells the court, however, that he is unable to explain the content of the documents in detail, as 1MDB matters were usually discussed between Low and Azlin, and he was only there to accompany the latter.

He also says that he was confident that the documents originated from Low.

10.34am: The court hears from Amhari that Low had in 2012 ordered him and Azlin to open personal bank accounts overseas.

At that time, Amhari was still a special officer to Najib, while Azlin was Najib’s chief private secretary.

He says that Low had told them then that he had received “blessing” to give the order, and both Amhari and Azlin have to open the bank accounts “just in case and standby.”

According to the witness, both Azlin and himself understood then that the blessing that Low meant was a green light from Najib.

Low said that the accounts were to be used for political reasons.

Amhari says he was afraid that the accounts would be used for money-laundering.

10.40am: Amhari says that he and Azlin were assured by Low that they would be protected by Najib.

“Low gave us the assurance that we should not worry, and to trust him, he even told us that ‘boss will take care’.

“The boss he was referring to was Najib.”

He says that both of them did not give any decision to Low, but he had expected they would have to eventually agree anyway or risk the safety of their families, career and self.

According to Amhari, Azlin had later agreed to the opening of overseas accounts in their names after another secret meeting with Low, and Amhari had to follow Azlin’s decision.

“After Low left, Azlin said to me that we had no choice but to follow Low’s order because if we didn’t, we might lose our jobs.

“He said it could also potentially pose harm to our families and ourselves as we already knew the plan.”

Amhari says that Low had then arranged for the account opening procedures, and took them to Singapore where they opened the accounts under Low’s “manipulation”. They were helped by a BSI Bank officer called Yvonne and another BSI Bank officer whose name Amhari could not recall.

Low had sole power over the accounts although they were in Amhari and Azlin’s names.

10.45am: Azlin had once advised his subordinate not to use monies put in their overseas bank accounts.

According to Amhari, his boss gave the advice after a meeting with Low, saying that the money was not theirs to spend.

“Azlin also advised me to follow orders and just play along.”

Amhari says he had US$800,000 in the bank account but he did not know where the money had come from.

Amhari tells the court that they only knew about matters related to the accounts when Low spoke to him and Azlin about them without giving the duo any chance to ask any further questions.

10.47am: Amhari also went to Shanghai to open another bank account on Low’s instructions. His application to open an account in China was rejected.

He then went to Bangkok, also on Low’s instructions, to open an account there. His application to open an account was accepted there.

10.50am: The court hears from Amhari that no one in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) would dare to ask the then-premier on the source of funds that he received.

He says that this was because such action might be perceived as not having confidence in Najib’s credibility.

“I believe that there were funds that came from Low Taek Jho because before the 13th General Election, he told me and Azlin about funds for the purpose of winning votes in Penang for the election.

“However, Low had never explained how he got the funds.

“Until today, I do not know the status of the monies in the account as it is still under Low’s control,” says Amhari.

10.58am: Around late 2014 to early 2015, Azlin and Amhari received documents from Low entitled ‘Addressing concerns on 1MDB particularly its balance sheet’.

Amhari says these documents were given to them so that they would be able to answer questions about 1MDB should anyone asked.

10.59am: Amhari says he met Low in Prince Hotel to obtain the documents. Amhari was told to destroy the documents once he was done with them. But he kept them.

11.13am: The court hears that Low made a plan for 1MDB rationalisation sometime in the late 2014 or 2015.

Amhari says that Low had made the plan to settle all 1MDB debts.

“As the situation was not good for 1MDB then, the plan was to sell all its assets and liabilities to cover all its debts.

“An example is the Bandar Malaysia project, where the plan was to transfer the ownership of Bandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd to a company called Sg Besi Development Sdn Bhd, which would be set up to buy Bandar Malaysia,” the witness testifies.

Amhari says that the document detailing the plans was prepared by Low, and he had received it either by email or from Azlin, or during their meeting with Low at Prince Hotel.

11.18am: The court hears that Low was involved in a damage control attempt and prepared a set of talking points, including denial of his involvement with 1MDB.

Amhari testifies that Low prepared the document titled ‘Q&A: 1MDB/Yayasan’ which discussed issues surrounding 1MDB sometime in the late 2014 or early 2015.

“In this document, it also showed that Low tried to insert answers explaining his role in 1MDB.

“At paragraph seven of the document, it was stressed that Low had no role in 1MDB, although in reality, he was secretly the mastermind for 1MDB.”

Amhari says paragraph eight of the document includes an example of an answer to show that 1MDB was a successful project.

11.22am: Then-1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy and Jho Low clashed over the proposed rationalisation plan for 1MDB, says Amhari during examination-in-chief by the prosecution.

The eighth witness says that this was the rationale behind an email titled ‘Urgent: Rationalisation Plan 1MDB’ dated April 22, 2015, which Low asked him to forward to Najib.

“This email was sent as Arul Kanda, who was 1MDB CEO at the time, has different plans on 1MDB rationalisation.

“Low needed Najib to tell Arul Kanda to follow his (Low) suggestion and if Arul Kanda still disagreed, Najib then should tell the CEO to resolve the differences in opinion with Low and myself,” Amhari says.

11.35am: The court hears from Amhari that Low had in 2015 ordered him and Azlin to work closely with law enforcement agencies investigating 1MDB.

Amhari says that Low wanted them to get the authorities to avoid negative perception on 1MDB’s rationalisation plan.

12pm: Amhari says in 2016, he was summoned to Najib’s house in Langgak Duta. Najib met him in the living room and requested that he go to Abu Dhabi to meet Khaldoon Mubarak, Mubadala’s CEO in the UAE.

Amhari says he was sent there as a facilitator to ensure the IPIC issue is not brought to court. This is because Abu Dhabi was going to bring up the “binding term sheet” between IPIC and 1MDB at the International Arbitration Court.

He says Najib told him that if Malaysia had gone to the international court for not paying its bonds, it would muddy relations with the UAE as well as pose political risks to Najib in the coming election.

He says Najib had asked him to convince Abu Dhabi to settle this issue outside of court.

“This was one of the confidential tasks Najib asked of me, because at that time the 1MDB issue was hotly publicised in the media,” Amhari says.

12.15pm: According to the witness, after he left Najib’s residence, he received a BlackBerry message from Low, who told him that Khaldoon was expecting someone from Malaysia to contact him and provided him with the man’s email address.

Amhari says that Low had also told him that he would send Amhari talking points for his meeting with Khaldoon.

One to two weeks after the meeting with Najib, Amhari says he went to Abu Dhabi to Mubadala’s offices.

In the meeting, Khaldoon told him that Malaysia had promised them many things but they were not met.

Khaldoon had expressed that he had wanted a new agreement.

Amhari says he would act as an intermediary between the two countries through the backchannel so the matter would not go to international court.

12.16pm: In June 2016, Amhari says he was sent to China to strengthen diplomatic ties.

He says he was told by Najib to go alone and that Low would arrange all travel details.

Amhari says he had wanted to quit his job because he felt it was weighing him down, especially with the demise of Azlin.

12.20pm: An emotional Amhari says it was the hardest decision he had made in his job.

He says he had respected Najib and felt it was his duty to go to China.

He says Low had joined him on the trip, and was there to get investments to pay off 1MDB debts.

12.25pm: “As shown by Low Taek Jho through talking points and action plan to me, the agreement and venture (between Malaysia and China) are meant to be an investment that would help repay 1MDB debts (bailout) such as the debt to the IPIC.

FMT

“I can also confirm that my visit to China (in 2016) was only known by Low and Najib,” Amhari says.

12.40pm: The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), Multi-Product Pipeline (MPP), and Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline (TSGP) projects were meant to bail out 1MDB, says Amhari.

He is referring to a document titled ‘Action Point: China-Malaysia Economic Programme’ that was emailed to Amhari by Low.

Amhari says the email was meant to ensure Najib gives Terence Geh, an associate of Low, the role of coordinator for the 1MDB and SRC International debt resolution programme linked to Malaysia-China investment talks.

The witness says the document suggests projects that can bail out 1MDB.

“The document is a note on information and talking points to update the status of the project, as well as follow up work on the three projects, which are TSGP, MPP, and ECRL,” he says.

12.45pm: The court hears from Amhari that a meeting held with China’s State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (Sasac) in 2016 discussed, among others, trade co-operation between Malaysia and China.

Amhari says that among other key issues discussed during the June 28, 2016 meeting in China was the need for solid support for Najib to ensure stability and prosperity in the region.

Amhari ends his witness statement.

12.50pm: The court breaks for lunch.

2.32pm: Proceedings resume.

2.37pm: Terence Geh, an associate of Jho Low, was made the secretary for three China-backed projects – the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline (TSGP), and Multi-Product Pipeline (MPP) – testifies Amhari.

The witness says that Najib, in a 2017 meeting, agreed with Low’s information note that Geh be made the secretary for the three projects.

“This means he (Geh) was the main player and Low’s staunch supporter in Malaysia to ensure the project agreement was signed,” Amhari tells deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib during examination-in-chief.

2.45pm: Najib’s visit to China in November 2016 was to secure several agreements with the country and its companies.

Amhari says that Najib’s visit had three aims:

  • A full engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning agreement between China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) with ECRL Sdn Bhd, and China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering Co Ltd (CPP) with Suria Strategic Energy Resources Sdn Bhd (SSER).
  • A full funding agreement between the Exim Bank of China and ECRL, and between the bank and SSER.
  • A full Renminbi Bond Underwriting Agreement between China and ECRL, and between SSER and a China party.

Amhari says this when identifying and confirming details of a document titled ‘Private and Highly Confidential (Not For Circulation)’ dated Sept 22, 2016.

The witness tells the court that he received the document from former SRC director Terence Geh during a meeting at the PMO.

2.47pm: Amhari is now talking about his role at Orb Solutions, a company formed to promote the 1Malaysia initiative.

He was one of the company directors, and a liaison between the company and Najib.

He says he had a non-executive role at Orb Solutions, adding that his role was to ensure the company has funds to carry out its tasks.

2.50pm: Amhari testifies that Najib was in the know of Jho Low’s plans for the 1MDB bailout process.

Amhari says he believed Najib had given Low the mandate to execute the bailout for 1MDB and its former subsidiary SRC International.

This, Amhari adds, is his own conclusion, based on circumstances and documents prepared by Low on the matter.

“Generally, I can draw a conclusion based on the situation and documents prepared by Low.

“I believe that Najib was in the know and had given the mandate to Low to plan and manage bailout efforts on debts and losses incurred by 1MDB and SRC International,” he says.

2.52pm: This concludes Amhari’s witness statement. He is now required to sign each copy of his witness statement that had been given to the defence and the court.

2.54pm: Sri Ram continues the examination.

Amhari is asked to describe Azlin.

He says in his seven years working with Azlin, he was patient, humble, down to earth and a person that followed orders. He was very smart and clean.

Sri Ram: How was he to the accused?

Amhari: He was loyal and followed orders

Sri Ram: In your witness statement, you suggested that it was illogical that Azlin had asked Najib to open the account. Why would you say that?

Amhari: It was not his role to advise and initiate this.

Sri Ram: In paragraph nine of your statement, your role in the PM’s office, what was your function as a media person?

Amhari: I was managing, administering Najib’s social media content on Facebook, Twitter etc. I interacted with Najib as much as possible and as frequently as possible.

Sri Ram: Why did you have to do that?

Amhari: Social media is dynamic and quick. And most importantly, we had to project Najib’s image. We had to emulate him, speak and write like him so the people know it was him on social media.

Sri Ram: You said Jho Low was in the inner circle. What led you to come to that view?

Amhari: I came to that view because my meeting with Low was about him speaking about Najib’s family and was beyond work. For example, he said he met Rosmah (Mansor) at the house and was planning the family’s travel.

Sri Ram asks about his statement where Amhari said Najib’s people worked in silos.

Sri Ram: Whose idea was it?

Amhari: It was understood. The chief of staff emphasised this. Najib also appreciated this form of working style.

3.01pm: Sri Ram asks him about Paul Stadlen, who was Najib’s PR person.

Amhari says he doesn’t know much about Stadlen.

He says Stadlen was a regular visitor at the PMO.

Amhari: His function was to look at all international communications relating to Najib. He reported to Najib.

Sri Ram: You said in your statement that Jho Low wanted to show that PetroSaudi had connections with Saudi government and royal families. What made you to conclude that this was his intention?

Amhari: Low gave the explanations as such. And it was on the letters and copies of documents he had shown us.

3.07pm: They are going through the documents.

Sri Ram: How long did you interact with Jho Low in terms of years?

Amhari: Physically eight years, in total 11 years.

Sri Ram: Did you know the man well?

Amhari: I would say so.

3.10pm: Amhari says every time he received instructions from Najib, there was an immediate follow-up by Low either via email or phone call.

3.11pm: Sri Ram ends his examination.

Shafee asks if he can begin his cross-examination tomorrow as he needs to confer with his client over the witness statement.

3.13pm: Judge agrees. Court is adjourned for the day.

Earlier reports:

Sept 4, Najib’s Ex-Aide: Mudabala CEO Was Promised All Sorts of Things

Sept 4, Najib’s Ex-Aide, Jho Low on “Secret China Mission” to Bail Out 1MDB

Sept 4, Jho Low Ordered Najib’s Ex-Aides to Open Overseas Bank Accounts

Sept 3, Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Day Three

Sept 3, Najib’s Ex-Aide: Jho Low Drew Out Wealth Fund Concept on Kitchen Whiteboard

Sept 3, Jho Low Gave Possibly Forged Letters from Saudi Arabia to Stop 1MDB Probe

Sept 3, Only Najib and Jho Low Knew “Full Picture” of 1MDB Plan

Sept 3, Jho Low in Najib’s Inner Circle

Aug 29, Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Day Two

Aug 28, Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Day One

Aug 28, Shafee: Prove Najib Knew Arab Donation Letter Faked, Jho Low Is Najib’s Alter Ego

Aug 28, Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Shafee Again Questions Sri Ram’s Appointment

Aug 28, Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Gopal Sri Ram’s Full Opening Statement

Aug 28, Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Prosecution to Show Saudi Donations a Sham

Aug 28, Najib’s 1 MDB Trial: Prosecution to Prove Jho Low Was Najib’s Alter Ego

Aug 28, Najib’s 1MDB Trial Begins