Defence suggests that celebrities didn’t know their names were mentioned.
Irish singer Bono and Queen Rania of Jordan were among the names floated to be members of the board of trustees of a foundation that was to be set up by the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), the predecessor of 1MDB, the Kuala Lumpur High Court heard today.
Lead defence counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, cross-examining the prosecution’s witness Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin in former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s 1MDB graft trial today, ran through documents related to the setting up of TIA and its charitable foundation.
Shafee said the document had proposed Terengganu ruler Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, who in 2009 was also the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, as the chairperson of the TIA Foundation.
He said the document also mentioned other individuals as potential members for the TIA Foundation’s board of trustees including Queen Rania of Jordan and then prime minister’s wife Rosmah Mansor.
“What has Bono to do with the board of trustees of the TIA foundation? You never saw this?” Shafee asked.
Amhari, who earlier said he was present during early meetings for the setting up of TIA, said he could not recall the list.
Shafee then grilled Amhari about the proposed TIA’s board of advisers for which, likewise, big names were dropped.
Among them were then Kuwait deputy prime minister Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, former ExxonMobile chief executive officer Lee Raymond, former Walt Disney chief executive officer Michael Eisner and Louis Vuitton chief executive Bernard Arnault.
‘”Do you know how these names came about? Who suggested?” queried Shafee.
Amhari said the names were provided by businessperson Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, at one of their “secret” meetings. He added that he didn’t know if they were eventually appointed.
Shafee: I’m suggesting to you, these names were thrown in by Jho Low to impress the state and federal governments although, in reality, it wouldn’t happen.
Amhari: I don’t know.
Shafee: I put it to you, in reality, these celebrities didn’t know their names were mentioned.
Amhari: I don’t know.
Shafee: Did you find out? […] I’m sure you were quite stunned by some of these people being suggested?
Amhari: I can only remember Bernard Arnault but I didn’t ask further.
TIA was initially proposed as a Terengganu entity with backing from the federal government.
However, the Terengganu government pulled out after red flags and TIA was taken over by Putrajaya and renamed as 1MDB.
1MDB later set up its own charitable arm called Yayasan 1MDB.
Najib is standing trial for 25 charges of money laundering and abuse of power over the alleged misappropriation of RM2.28 billion from 1MDB.
The trial is being presided over by Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah. – Malaysiakini