In 2012, Jho Low ordered two of former prime minister Najib Razak’s aides to open overseas bank accounts under their names for political purposes.
Continuing his testimony in Najib’s 1MDB trial, Amhari Efendi said that he and Azlin Alias, who was Najib’s principal secretary at the time, were asked by Jho Low to open two accounts at BSI Bank Singapore in 2012.
“Jho Low told us that Datuk Seri had given us his blessing to open the account, saying ‘just in case and stand by’.
“He also told us there was a possibility that the accounts would be used for political purposes, and that he would manage them,” Amhari said.
During that period, whispers had started about problems at 1MDB.
He said he and Azlin were afraid that their accounts might be used for money laundering to keep money for Najib ahead of the 2013 general election.
Amhari, the eighth prosecution witness, testified that he and Azlin feared for their safety as well as their families’ should they refuse the order.
He said Low had tried to address their concerns by saying that they would be protected by Najib if anything happens.
“But 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.”
After further assurances from Low that matters would be “above board”, Amhari said he was advised by Azlin to go along or risk losing their jobs.
“I decided to follow Datuk Azlin’s advice because he was my boss and knew more about such matters,” Amhari said.
The witness said Low took them to Singapore where they opened the accounts under Low’s “manipulation”, and helped by a BSI Bank officer named Yvonne and another BSI officer whose name he could not recall.
Amhari said his BSI account has been under the control of Low since its opening.
He said he only heard about the account some four years later when a BSI Switzerland officer called him in early 2016 to ask if he knew how much he had left in the account.
When Amhari said he did not know, the officer then informed him that he had a balance of over US$800,000 in the account.
“I was shocked because I did not know anything about the money. I then asked for the officer’s opinion on deposits made into the account.
“The officer only told me that he would contact me again.”
Amhari testified that he received another call later from the bank and was informed that his connection with the bank would be terminated and that he had to transfer the money in his account to another bank account or company registered under his name.
He said he referred the matter to Low, following which the latter told him to open a new account in Shanghai.
“He came with me to China to apply for a bank account,” Amhari said.
“However, Jho Low later told me that the application for the bank account was unsuccessful.”
After that, he said, Low told him to open an account at Kasikorn Bank in Bangkok.
After the account was opened, he said a fax was sent to BSI Switzerland from the Shangri La Hotel in Dubai, ordering the bank to transfer the balance of his account to the new Kasikorn Bank new account.
Amhari said the instruction to BSI was sent from Dubai as Low did not want to use a Malaysian phone number.
He added that two days later, BSI contacted him to inform that the transaction was unsuccessful.
Amhari informed this to Low who said that he would settle the issue.
“However, until today, I do not know what happened to the monies in the account,” he said.
The court also heard from Amhari that his late boss Azlin had once advised him not to touch any money that was deposited into their overseas accounts.
He said the advice was given by Azlin after a secret meeting with Low sometime after the BSI accounts were opened.
“After Low left (the meeting), Azlin had advised me not to ever use monies in the accounts because they are not ours.
“Besides, it was Low who controlled and managed the accounts. Azlin also advised me to follow orders and just play along,” he added.
Amhari added that neither he nor Azlin had questioned Najib about the money in BSI Bank Singapore.
“Generally, the PMO officers can never question the source of funds from Datuk Seri because this might be seen as us not believing his credibility,” he said.
Amhari said he believes that political money had come from Low because Low had himself told him and Azlin that he intended to use those funds to win over voters in Penang in the 2013 general election.
He said he never knew the status of the account or found out where Low obtained the money from.