1MDB trial: Jho Low swore to make my life a ‘living hell’, Jasmine Loo tells court

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Former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) general counsel Jasmine Loo told the High Court that she became a fugitive for five years after Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, swore to make her life “a living hell” if she returned to Malaysia.

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In an explosive testimony, the 50th prosecution witness finally told her tale of how she came to live abroad from April 2018.

“I had no intention of going away. I was already in Bangkok at the time when the 14th General Election (GE14) results came out,” she said at Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s RM2.28bil 1MDB trial on Wednesday (Feb 14).

Najib’s Barisan Nasional coalition had lost the election in an unprecedented defeat during GE14.

Loo said she was instructed by Low, who is a central figure in the 1MDB scandal and a fugitive himself, to remain abroad and not return to Malaysia.

“He said to me that things would get very ugly for me and ‘you will be much worse’ if I return to Malaysia…and that he will resolve things and he promised to resolve things.

“I feared what would happen to me. And I stayed (in Bangkok) for fear of reprisal,” she said.

When asked by Deputy Public Prosecutor Deepa Nair Thevaharan if she (Loo) had received any threats, the star witness answered in the affirmative.

“Basically, Jho Lo had sworn to turn my life into a living hell and to use his every resource and power to ensure that I meet a terrible end if I returned to Malaysia,” she said.

Loo said she did not work while she lived abroad but survived on whatever funds she had.

She said occasionally, Low would send someone or strangers to deliver funds of approximately US$2,500 to her for another year’s expenses.

The witness admitted that it was “deplorable” to have to rely on someone who had threatened her life, but she said she had no choice as she had no other means.

“It’s deplorable. But basically, I needed (the funds) to survive, and yet I was waiting to find a safe way to return to Malaysia.

“So, in the meantime, I had to rely on him without him knowing that I was going to return to Malaysia and for my plans not to endanger me. I fear for my own life, basically,” she added.

As she was in Bangkok, Loo said it made her “acutely aware” of what had happened to 1MDB whistleblower Xavier Justo, and she did not want to become the “next Xavier Justo”.

“My desire was always to return home to cooperate with the authorities, but I felt cornered in the circumstances, in which I felt I could not safely return,” she said.

Around 2019, Loo said she began discussions to return home and when the Covid-19 pandemic happened in 2020, everything came to a standstill.

“After that, I sought legal advice as to how to secure safe passage home to Malaysia.

“In April 2021, my lawyers submitted a representation to the Attorney General’s Chambers offering my cooperation and seeking safe passage to Malaysia. It was only until late July 2023 that I returned,” Loo said.

Loo was previously a lawyer in the law firm Zain & Co from 1998 to 2008 and had worked as general counsel in UBG Berhad from early 2009 to April 2011. Low was UBG’s director.

Apart from receiving a salary for her role as 1MDB general counsel from May 2011 to November 2013, Loo said she also received bonuses, perks and employment benefits such as car and allowance for a driver.

“I did in fact receive funds from Jho Low but at that time, I did not know the funds were sourced from 1MDB. If I had known, I would not have accepted it.

“Those funds were promised to me for my contribution in the UBG Group which he promised to me as ex gratia and golden handshake when I left, so I felt I was entitled to them. And subsequently when I left 1MDB, I also did receive angpows from Jho Low to cover expenses,” she said.

Loo said she had also received funds for legitimate and lawful investments but claimed to not know that these funds arranged by Low were “sourced from 1MDB”, saying: “If I had known, I would not have accepted it.”

Asked by Deepa on what had happened to the funds she had received from Low, his companies and his associates, Loo replied that all such funds, bank accounts and assets “had been returned or surrendered to the government of Malaysia or relevant authorities such as the DoJ who would make the necessary arrangements to return them to Malaysia”.

Asked to explain her professional relationship with 1MDB trial judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah previously in the law firm Zain & Co when they were both practising lawyers, Loo said she has not been in touch with him since 2009, which would be about 15 years ago.

“I first met YA Collin as a chambering student when I entered Zain & Co in 1997, he was then a litigation partner in Zain & Co. Thereafter I was made legal assistant in 1998 and partner in 2004. YA Collin was in the litigation department while I was very much focused in the corporate department.

“And after I left Zain & Co at the end of 2008, I have not been in contact with YA Datuk Collin. And actually yesterday was the first time I had seen YA Collin since 2009 and end 2008, when I entered the court to read the statement,” she said, referring to yesterday which was the first day she took to the witness stand in the 1MDB trial to read her witness statement.

Loo said she had been deceived by Jho Low after her name became entangled in the 1MDB financial scandal.

She said she was shocked when she realised that she was named as an authorised signatory in Tanore Finance Corp, which allegedly sent millions of the company’s funds into Najib’s bank account.

“I only found out about this company when it was reported in the media and by the Department of Justice in 2016.

“When I found out about this, I remembered that in October 2012, I went to Falcon Bank in Zurich, Switzerland, together with Low and Eric Tan Kim Loong to open a private bank account there.

“Low and Tan were also planning to open bank accounts there at that time.

“At that time, Tan asked me if I could hold power of attorney for his account in the event of his death, which I agreed,” she said.

She said at that time, Tan did not choose any name for the company, and she only signed the power of attorney documents in blank.

She said in December 2012, the bank contacted her asking about Tan’s account, but she refused to be involved until Tan had passed away.

“When I read the media reports and DOJ documents, I found out that the Tanore Finance Corp account was at Falcon Private Bank in Singapore.

“It was said that the documentation I signed was in Singapore, and all the arrangements to include my name were made by Low.

“I was extremely angry because I never dealt with any officers from Falcon Bank in Singapore or Tanore Finance Corp at any time.

“I only dealt with and contacted bank officers at the Faclon Bank in Zurich,” she said, adding that only when the news surfaced, she realised that the documents she signed in Zurich had been misused by Falcon Bank, Tan, and Low.

Loo said when she confronted Low, the latter said she did not need to worry as Faclon Bank chief executive officer Eduardo Leehman knew she was not involved in Tanore Finance Corp or any other bank account related to Tan.

“I then continued to question this matter and scolded Low for involving my name in this transaction, which had nothing to do with me.

“Low later explained to me that the funds issued through the US$3 billion bonds were used in the 13th General Election as political funds.

“Only when explained by Low did I learn the truth. He assured me that all these transactions were legitimate,” she added.

On Sept 20, last year, a Bank Negara analyst Adam Ariff Mohd Roslan described to the court how US$681 million of 1MDB funds siphoned into Najib’s personal bank account 10 years ago.

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He said the rogue financer, through the shell company Tanore Finance Corporation, transferred the funds it received from 1MDB subsidiary 1MDB Global Investment Ltd (1GIL) via multiple layers of transactions.

Adam Ariff said 1GIL via Devonshire Funds Ltd had transferred US$640 million into Tanore and Granton Property Holding Ltd – both owned by Tan.

The 29-year-old analyst said on March 21, 2013, both entities (Tanore and Granton) received US$210,000,000 and US$430,000,000, respectively.

“On the same day, Granton then transferred all the received funds (US$430 million) to Tanore despite having no balance in its account.

“In effect, Tanore received US$640 million in total from 1GIL via Devonshire.

“Tanore later instructed Falcon Bank to transfer US$681 million to Najib’s bank account as soon as possible.

“A total of US$620 million was immediately transferred into Najib’s bank account at AmIslamic Bank.

“The remaining US$61 million was transferred on March 25,” he said.

Najib’s 1MDB trial resumes this Friday.


Earlier reports:

Feb 14, 1MDB trial: Jho Low behind Arab donation letter to Najib

Feb 14, 1MDB trial: Jasmine Loo waited outside Najib’s house while Jho Low went in to get signature

Feb 14, 1MDB trial: MACC chief Abu Kassim replaced to protect Najib from investigation