Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Day Eight

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Shafee suggests that Jho Low pulled a con job.

Mukhriz Hazim/Malaysiakini

9.30am: Najib Razak enters the court and takes a seat at the front row of the public gallery to await proceedings to begin.

Also seen in court is lead DPP Gopal Sri Ram.

9.55am: The hearing begins with Najib’s former special officer Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin being asked to identify seven people he mentioned in his witness statement in the court.

DPP Akram Gharib asks the witness if he can identify all the witnesses at one go, to which Amhari says “Insha Allah“.

The DPP then asks for court officials to bring in the seven, namely: former 1MDB chairperson Che Lodin Wok Kamarudin, Wan Shihab Wan Ismail (former special officer to Najib), Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi (former 1MDB CEO), Arul Kanda Kandasamy (former 1MDB CEO), Dennis See (former 1MDB project officer), Azmi Tahir (former 1MDB chief finance officer), and Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz (Najib’s stepson).

All of them then walk into the court, and stand in a line facing Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah, and Amhari quickly identifies each of them to the court.

After the identification exercise, lead defence counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah then continues with the defence’s cross-examination on Amhari.

10.15am: Amhari disagrees with the defence’s contention that Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) was the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s idea rather than the then deputy prime minister Najib’s “baby”.

The eighth witness testifies that TIA, which later became 1MDB, was the “baby” and idea of Najib.

During this cross-examination, Shafee, relying on minutes of TIA meetings in 2008, asserts that it was the then Agong Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin’s idea instead.

Shafee: “I say that you knew since 2008 that this (TIA) was never Najib’s baby, but that TIA was (the idea of) the then Agong and Sultan of Terengganu?

Amhari: I disagree.

Shafee tells the witness that the then sultan of Terengganu who was the then Yang Di-Pertuan Agong had agreed to and was fully behind the establishment of TIA.

Shafee reads out the minutes of a cabinet meeting where Najib tabled the proposal in a white paper.

10.29am: Amhari says that he knew Jho Low was involved in TIA during its infancy.

10.32am: The court allows Shafee’s application for a short adjournment to sort out documents.

12.03pm: Court resumes.

Justice Sequerah enters chambers. Shafee apologises for taking a long time to go through TIA’s documents.

12.04pm: Shafee continues cross-examination of the witness.

Amhari recalls proposals from Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan to raise bonds for TIA. Shafee asks if these banks were suggested by Low.

Amhari says he doesn’t remember.

12.07pm: Shafee asks if Amhari recalls the TIA proposal presented to the cabinet.

Amhari says he cannot.

Shafee: You seem to be forgetting a lot of things.

Amhari: But this was in 2009.

Shafee: But there are some things that people can remember and some things they can’t. But you can’t remember anything. I’m trying to find out if you really don’t remember.

12.10pm: The court hears that Jho Low had attended a meeting of TIA steering and coordination committee on March 5, 2009.

During defence’s cross-examination, Amhari agrees that Jho Low had attended the meeting by invitation.

Amhari also testifies that he can vaguely remember attending the meeting held at the EPF office, and that there were proposals by three financial institutions on raising bonds for TIA.

The banks were Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Nomura, according to Amhari’s testimony.

Amhari, however, says he cannot recall if the banks were suggested by Jho Low.

12.25pm: Shafee asks who suggested that AmInvestment bank be given the TIA account.

Amhari says he does not know:

Shafee: I’m putting it to you that Jho Low had suggested AmBank because of his relationship with them.

Amhari: I don’t know.

12.28pm: Shafee refers to cabinet meeting minutes dated April 1, 2009, days before Najib took over office of prime minister from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The two were present at the day’s meeting as PM and deputy PM.

Najib, who was also finance minister at the time, brought a memorandum in which TIA sought government backing of RM5 billion and RM6 billion to be pegged to oil royalties.

12.32pm: Shafee says the memo wasn’t presented by Najib in a personal capacity but in his capacity as finance minister.

Amhari agrees.

Shafee: Najib didn’t suggest anything else at the meeting. He only suggested what the ministry recommended.

Amhari: Based on the document, yes.

12.40pm: Amhari agrees to a suggestion by the defence that the first Finance Ministry’s memorandum to the cabinet for TIA was not tabled for Najib’s personal interest.

Amhari testifies this under cross-examination by Shafee, who shows the court a copy of the memorandum to be tendered as evidence.

He also agrees that the document stated that the formation of TIA would trigger more investment opportunities in Malaysia and Terengganu, and thus benefits the country and the East Coast state.

12.43pm: Shafee asks the witness why was Low invited to TIA meetings.

Amhari says he doesn’t know.

Shafee: You don’t know who invited him? You didn’t ask?

Amhari: I don’t know, I didn’t ask.

12.44pm: Shafee says that subsequent to the meeting, someone asked who was Jho Low and what was his involvement.

Amhari says he didn’t know that.

12.45pm: Shafee suggests that Jho Low was there at the meetings to mechanise TIA.

Amhari: Jho Low was there to facilitate the happenings of TIA.

Shafee: You’re using vague words.

Amhari agrees Low was there to facilitate TIA operations.

12.55pm: The court hears that TIA secured a “list of world-class individuals” for its board of advisors, including Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, the chairperson of executive affairs authority of the Abu Dhabi government.

Shafee reads out part of the contents of a TIA letter dated May 4, 2009, to Najib.

The lawyer refers to portions of the letter when cross-examining Amhari over whether Jho Low was the one that came up with the idea during his alleged involvement in TIA.

“TIA identified five multibillion-ringgit initiatives with Mubadala, a sovereign wealth fund owned by Abu Dhabi, which include forming a joint investment company by end of May 2009, with Mubadala’s initial contribution of US$1.2 billion,” Shafee reads out from the document.

To Shafee’s question whether Jho Low was the one who came up with the above ideas, Amhari says he can only be certain that the Mubadala one involved Jho Low.

1.08pm: Judge Sequerah allows Sri Ram’s application for proceedings to proceed beyond 5pm today.

This paves the way to the possibility of the proceedings going into the night.

1.09pm: Court is adjourned for lunch.

2.39pm: Court is in session. The witness returns to the stand.

Shafee asks Amhari to look at a TIA-related document dated May 4, 2009.

It is a letter from former TIA CEO Shahrul Ibrahim Halmi to Najib, in the latter’s capacity as finance minister.

2.40pm: Shafee asks the witness to verify more documents, including a vision plan for TIA.

2.56pm: U2’s lead singer Bono, Louis Vuitton’s Bernard Arnault, and Jordan’s Queen Rania were among names that Jho Low proposed to bring into TIA Foundation’s board of trustees, the Kuala Lumpur High Court hears.

Shafee refers to the discussion that Jho Low had with Amhari and Najib’s then chief private secretary Azlin Alias at Prince Hotel at Kuala Lumpur, where Jho Low allegedly dropped these illustrious names.

Shafee: These names were thrown in to impress the authorities of Terengganu and the federal government that he can deliver when, in reality, he cannot deliver. You have been conned?

Amhari: I do not know.

Shafee: Most of the personalities do not even know about this (TIA)?

Amhari: I do not know.

Afif Abd Halim/TMI

When Shafee asks whether it ever crossed Amhari’s mind that this may have been a con job by Jho Low, the witness replies “No”.

3.08pm: Sequerah questions Shafee’s line of questioning centred on the documentation on TIA’s inception.

Shafee says the defence is trying to establish that TIA was not formed to serve Najib’s interests and that in fact TIA later become 1MDB due to some issues.

3.40pm: Terengganu’s Menteri Besar Incorporated (Terengganu MBI) had in May 2009 tried to suspend bonds issuance by the then Terengganu Investment Authority’s (TIA), the court hears.

In the cross-examination of Amhari, the defence puts to him a document signed by then Terengganu Menteri Besar, Ahmad Said, to Najib, who was the finance minister then.

The letter stated that the bond issuance by TIA was done without representation from Terengganu MBI and was thus against the company’s agreement.

Amhari then agrees to a suggestion by Shafee that the letter showed Terengganu state government was telling TIA that they could not abuse the bonds as Terengganu MBI was not represented.

4.14pm: Shafee refers to terms that TIA is owned by Terengganu MB Inc and that the government guarantee for Islamic medium-term notes must get Putrajaya’s approval.

He also refers to the issuance of the RM5 billion Islamic medium-term notes, undertaken by AmBank with the assistance of legal firm Shearn Delamore & Co.

4.17pm: Jho Low, through UBG which he partly owned, had eyed petroleum in Terengganu as far back as 2008, the Kuala Lumpur High Court hears.

Shafee reveals this in reading out UBG’s annual report issued on Sept 2008.

Shafee: (Reading out) Dear shareholder, in Sept 2008, UBG had entered into agreement with Mubadala for a proposed exclusive joint venture to set up in Malaysia an exploration and production company with Mubadala, to undertake upstream and downstream activities for oil and gas projects in Malaysia, with initial focus on the states of Terengganu, Sarawak and Sabah.

Azneal Ishak/Malaysiakini

“I read that out to prove that UBG, which is partly owned by Jho Low, I proved through the company of his. From all that you have seen today and turbulence in TIA Terengganu, are you surprised that Jho Low was, in fact, eyeing petroleum in Terengganu through this UBG report?

Amhari: Yes, it is a surprise.

Shafee: He (Jho Low) did not tell you?

Amhari: No.

4.40pm: The court hears that the cabinet had in 2009 decided to leave it to MBI to decide on the ownership of TIA, following its problem with TIA’s issuance of bonds.

Amhari agrees to the defence’s suggestion that the cabinet meeting showed that the federal government was not keen to take over TIA then.

Based on minutes of the cabinet meeting, Amhari also agrees that the federal government preferred if the Terengganu government took Option 2 of three options in the matter.

Option 2, according to Amhari’s testimony under cross-examination by Shafee, was for Terengganu MBI to keep its holding on TIA and work it out together with the federal government.

Shafee: They’re not keen to take over. They prefer Terengganu to take Option 2.

Amhari: Based on this, yes.

5pm: TIA chief executive officer Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi was the one who came up with the idea for the federal government to fully take over the company, the court hears.

During cross-examination, Amhari is shown a letter by Shahrol to Najib in which he made the suggestion.

Amhari also agrees that based on the letter, Shahrol had also coined “MDB” as TIA’s new name.

5.10pm: Court is adjourned. The trial continues at 9.30am tomorrow.


Earlier reports:

Sept 17, Witness Identifies Riza Aziz, Arul Kanda and Five Others as Key Players in 1MDB Saga

Sept 17, Bono, Queen of Jordan, Rosmah Floated as Trustees for TIA

Sept 17, Witness Says 1MDB Najib’s Baby, Defence Claims It Was Terengganu Sultan’s Idea

Sept 11, Najib’s Eye Infection Halts 1MDB Trial

Sept 10, Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Day Six

Sept 10, Rosmah Fond of Jho Low

Sept 10, Najib’s Ex-Aide: Jho Low Provided Scripted Responses to Deny His Involvement in 1MDB

Sept 10, Istana Negara Questioned Jho Low’s Role in 1MDB Predecessor TIA

Sept 5, Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Day Five

Sept 5, 1MDB Trial: Judge Raps Shafee over Najib’s Tardiness

Sept 5, 1MDB Trial: Najib’s Ex-Aide Took US$200K Loan from Jho Low to Buy Property

Sept 5, 1MDB Trial: Najib’s Ex-Aide Accused of Lying

Sept 4, Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Day Four

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