Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Day Five

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Jho Low, a puppet master who can get whatever he wants, was often seen going in and out of Najib’s home.

9.25am: The accused, former prime minister Najib Razak, enters the court and takes a seat in the front row of the public gallery to await the beginning of proceedings.

9.41am: Najib steps into the dock as proceedings begin.

9.44am: Lead defence counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah apologises because of the delay, stating that he had some traffic issues. He begins the cross-examination.

9.47am: Shafee asks Najib’s former special officer Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin about his qualifications.

Amhari graduated from the University of Warwick in economics.

9.53am: Shafee asks whether he sought permission from Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to open a bank account when he studied in Warwick.

Amhari says he didn’t.

Shafee says this is common practice when one is not a student and want to open a bank account overseas, one needs BNM’s permission.

9.54am: Amhari says he did not seek BNM’s approval when he was asked to open an overseas bank account by Jho Low.

Amhari says he followed Low and Azlin’s instructions and the account was opened in Singapore.

9.55am: The court hears that Najib was not aware that Amhari had been ordered by Jho Low to open a bank account in Singapore.

This is revealed by Shafee during his cross-examination of Amhari.

In response, the witness says that he never personally informed Najib about opening the account.

Shafee: I have instruction from my client (Najib) that until you disclosed it in your witness statement, he did not know that you opened the bank account in Singapore?

Amhari: I do not know.

Shafee: You never communicated this fact to him, that Low asked you to open the account, you flatly (bulat-bulat) believed in him (Low) and did not bother to come back and tell your boss (Najib)?

Amhari: I never did that. But I have Azlin Alias (Najib’s then-private secretary and Amhari’s superior), to follow his (Azlin’s) lead and see how he manoeuvred the situation, and I followed his steps.

Shafee: What do you mean?

Amhari: I mentioned (in the witness statement) that I followed Azlin, as at that time I was a junior officer, and I was not a datuk. It is not easy to meet Najib. At that time, the one who met Najib was Azlin. I did not have the opportunity like Azlin to meet Najib.

9.56am: Shafee asks if it didn’t cross his mind that his boss was the PM and the minister of finance.

Shafee: Did it not cross your mind that you need to follow regulations to open an overseas account?

Amhari: I didn’t know about these regulations. Over and above, they gave me the instructions. Azlin and Jho Low would be aware of these regulations.

10am: Amhari says he didn’t know if Azlin mentioned the bank accounts to Najib.

10.02am: Shafee says an outsider tells you to open an account for political funding and you open with Azlin and you didn’t take measures to make sure Najib as PM knows.

Amhari: I disagree.

Amhari says he believes that the account opened in Singapore was under his name, adding that his was not the sole name on the account.

Shafee: Are you telling the court that as a former BNM officer, you don’t know if it was under a company or personal?

Amhari: I’m not sure of banking analogies.

10.04am: Amhari says he doesn’t have any information of the account as Low kept everything. The information is now with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

10.08am: Amhari says he was arrested on June 26, 2018, and detained for seven days by the MACC.

His statement was recorded by the MACC in the seven days.

Amhari says he was not interrogated by the MACC, just questioned.

10.15am: Shafee asks Amhari if he remembers Aero Sphere Ltd. Amhari says yes that was the shell company registered under his bank account.

He was the sole shareholder.

Shafee: Did you not wonder about this kind of layering? Usually, your alarm bells will ring.

Amhari: I wondered.

Shafee: But you didn’t take it further?

Amhari: No, I didn’t.

10.17am: Amhari says he wasn’t suspicious because he was following orders and Low told him, he would manage this account.

Amhari agrees with the suggestion that he totally believed Low.

Shafee says he won’t mention Azlin because he died and unable to defend himself.

10.20am: Amhari agrees that Azlin would not be able to defend himself in court as he died in 2015.

He also agrees that it would be easy for someone to pin blame on a dead man.

Shafee: Agree that dead men tell no tales (orang yang sudah meninggal tidak boleh cerita lagi)?

Amhari: True.

This comes as Amhari continues to drop Azlin’s name in his testimony, including on his dealings with Jho Low.

Azlin served as Najib’s chief private secretary until he died in a helicopter crash in 2015.

10.21am: Shafee asks Amhari if he was aware that US$800,000 was deposited into the BSI account.

Amhari says he was not aware of the money in the account as there was no indication or information that the money was deposited into the account.

10.22am: Shafee suggests that Amhari went to China to open another account to transfer the BSI money, as he was aware of funds in the BSI account.

10.23am: Amhari says he knew when he went to China about the money in the BSI account. He went to China in 2016 while the BSI account was opened in Singapore in 2012.

10.24am: Amhari says Low told him the BSI account was on standby for political purposes.

10.26am: Amhari testifies that Jho Low asked him to open the BSI bank account in Singapore to prepare for the 2013 general election.

During cross-examination by Shafee, Amhari says that Low revealed this during a discussion with him and Azlin.

Amhari: It was for preparation for GE13.

Shafee: You are just assuming that?

Amhari: I mentioned it was for political funding.

Shafee: You are merely assuming that?

Amhari: I disagree, as there was a discussion on the account as the election was looming.

Shafee: Now you are saying that during the (discussion of) opening the account while in a hotel room, Low said it was a standby account for the coming election?

Amhari: It was a discussion between Low, Azlin, and myself. It was from Low.

Shafee: Low said it was for the next election?

Amhari: Yes.

The bank account in question is the subject matter of several 1MDB charges against Najib.

10.27am: Shafee suggests that Low didn’t tell Amhari that the money was supposed to be used for GE13 in 2013.

Shafee suggests that US$800,000 was “peanuts” for an election.

Amhari disagrees.

10.30am: Shafee says in the SRC International trial, a few hundred million went into Najib’s account for elections.

He asks if it makes sense that Low would open an account in Singapore for a few hundred thousand dollars when the prime minister in his own backyard opened a personal account in AmBank to receive hundreds of millions of dollars.

Shafee: Has it crossed your mind that Jho Low is talking rubbish. When my boss (Najib) has opened accounts with millions of dollars. Why did he have to open the Singapore account?

Amhari: No.

After failing to open an account in China, Amhari went to Bangkok on Low’s instructions to open an account there.

10.37am: Amhari says he doesn’t know what happened to the Bangkok account.

10.45am: Shafee asks Amhari when the MACC remanded him, was he told if it was over offences related to the accounts.

Amhari: Yes, correct.

Shafee: You agree that the MACC told you this was an AMLA (money-laundering) offence?

Amhari: No, they didn’t

Shafee: Did they tell you why they’re arresting you?

Amhari: Maybe they did, but I don’t remember.

10.48am: Shafee suggests the MACC was investigating him for receiving bribes from Low. Amhari says he can’t remember.

10.51am: Shafee suggests that it’s a figment of Amhari’s imagination that the money is for political purposes.

Amhari: I disagree.

Shafee: I’m putting it to you that this money in the account was your reward for helping Jho Low in many things.

Amhari: I disagree.

10.55am: Shafee says that in 2012, Amhari claimed he had to follow instructions and open the account because he feared losing his job and threats to his family and life.

Amhari: I disagree. Azlin told me this.

Shafee: You must have some idea. Who would threaten your life? Or are you saying Najib would carry the gun and shoot you?

Amhari: The PM has all the authority and power to do many things. When I say life I don’t mean my life, I meant my livelihood, the conduct of my day-to-day life and I would not know how Jho Low would interpret this and relate it to Najib. This was discussed heavily when Azlin briefed me.

Shafee: You felt the threat may come from the PMO or the PM himself?

Amhari: Not directly but Jho Low has the blessings of Najib.

Shafee: You felt the threat was your own boss (Najib) conveyed by Jho Low?

Amhari: After Azlin explained, the threat was not directly from the PM.

Shafee: You could have just asked Najib. It’s a simple thing. You could’ve asked him if he authorised this. If that is done, the threat is not there.

Amhari: I disagree.

11.04am: Shafee says at any occasion that Amhari met Najib, he could have brought up the foreign accounts with him. Amhari disagrees.

11.05am: Court breaks for a short recess.

11.26am: As Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah enters the court, all parties from both the prosecution and defence are present, except Najib.

The judge then stands down proceedings to allow the accused to come into court.

11.32am: Proceedings resume with Najib having come into court.

Shafee then apologises to the court for Najib not making his entry earlier.

The lawyer then resumes his cross-examination of Amhari.

Shafee asks Amhari if he is currently on bail. Amhari says yes.

11.34am: Amhari says he’s not aware on what offence his bail is granted.

Shafee: They have not told you whether your investigation is finished or whether you’re charged?

Amhari: I don’t know.

Shafee: Do you have your passport with you?

Amhari: Yes.

Shafee: But there’s a travel ban?

Amhari: Yes.

11.37am: Amhari says he requested that the travel ban be lifted because he was looking for work and he wanted to visit family and perform the umrah last year.

When he returned, he was banned again.

Amhari says he’s investigated by the police for commercial crimes and AMLA.

11.44am: Shafee takes Amhari through his witness statement where Low sends him a BlackBerry message saying that he has gotten Najib’s blessings that Amhari be present in a meeting to discuss the formation of Terengganu Investment Authority.

Amhari then double checked with Najib about this and found out this was true. This happened in 2008.

Shafee: You double-checked with Najib. This is merely attending a meeting. You went and double-checked. You didn’t take Jho Low’s word for granted?

Amhari: Yes.

Shafee: In what capacity were you attending?

Amhari: I said to Najib that Jho Low asked me to confirm with you that I should go for the TIA meeting.

Shafee: You said Jho Low directed you and said he had blessings from Najib. Jho Low never asked you to reconfirm this with Najib?

Amhari: I agree.

11.50am: Shafee asks Amhari “You counter-checked with three people whether you should attend this meeting? Jho Low, Azlin and Najib. You chose to get a confirmation from Najib on your own account?”

Amhari: Yes.

Shafee: On this not-so-critical instruction, you thought it wise to double-check with Najib?

Amhari agrees.

Shafee: You were advised by Azlin not to listen to anyone else except Najib. He was referring to Jho Low?

Amhari: Yes.

Shafee: If that’s the case, you go to Singapore and open an account without checking. You didn’t go to Najib’s room and ask “eh boss boleh ke?”

Amhari: The context is different.

Shafee: You agree with me that although the context is different, the second is far more important to seek confirmation?

Amhari: I disagree.

Shafee: When the MACC took your statement, did you volunteer information about the US$800,000? I put it to you that they showed you the account and showed you this to your face.

Amhari: I cannot remember.

Shafee suggests Amhari was taken by surprise by this. Amhari says he wasn’t.

11.59am: Shafee asks if the MACC confronted Amhari about his properties, to which he says “yes”.

Shafee: They confronted you with these properties to find out whether your salary matches your lifestyle?

Amhari: They asked about my house in Kota Damansara, another house also in Kota Damansara.

The MACC also quizzed Amhari about two other studio apartments he owned in Johor.

“There was another property I was in the midst of buying, which is Pavilion Damansara Heights. I signed to buy but I pulled out of it.”

Shafee: This is RM3.8 million?

Amhari: Yes. But I cancelled it after I was asked by Khazanah to resign, after GE14, they terminated my employment.

11.59am: Shafee asks Amhari about the US$200,000 (over RM600,000 at the time) he took from Jho Low’s that was subject of investigation.

Amhari: I declared that.

Shafee: Was it in your MACC statement?

Amhari: Yes.

Shafee: But it’s not in the court witness statement? Why not?

Amhari: After many months of writing the statement, it did not end up there.

12.03pm: Amhari says he got the money from Low as a loan. He says he asked many people for a loan and Low gave it to him.

Shafee asks if he tried to get a loan from Bank Negara. Amhari says he tried but didn’t get it.

Shafee: Then you tried other places? So how did Jho Low know that you needed the money?

Amhari: I asked Jho Low in 2010.

12.04pm: Amhari says the loan was a temporary bridge to sell one house and buy another. He couldn’t sell the house.

Shafee: You used Jho Low’s money as part of the payment?

Amhari: Yes. The money came through a bank transfer.

The funds came from Alsen Chance Holding Ltd, owned by Low.

Shafee asks if he knows that the company is being investigated by US authorities, to which Amhari says he didn’t know.

12.08pm: Amhari says he planned to pay back Low from the sale of his house. However, he failed to sell his house.

He told Low he would transfer the title to him but Low reassured him to take his time.

12.09pm: Shafee asks if a loan agreement wasn’t something that Amhari should have had drawn up.

Amhari: I didn’t do an agreement. It’s not easy to persuade Jho Low to do these things.

Shafee: None of your houses was frozen by the authorities?

Amhari: No.

Shafee: You are lucky. I am not so.

12.12pm: Shafee asks if a civil forfeiture suit has been filed against Amhari, to which the witness replies no.

Shafee suggests that Amhari has been persuaded by the MACC to tailor his testimony to implicate Najib.

Seth Akmal/TMI

Amhari disagrees. He also disagrees that he was threatened by the MACC.

12.15pm: Shafee suggests that Amhari did not volunteer information to the MACC until he was confronted.

Amhari disagrees.

Amhari says he was in the MACC lock-up for seven days. He says the MACC treated him well. He says he slept on the floor but he slept well.

Shafee: You purposely omitted the US$200,000 because it would implicate you.

Amhari: I disagree.

12.18pm: Amhari says he is not ambitious.

Shafee: Your last job was in Khazanah, you asked Najib to consider you for work in Khazanah.

Amhari: I asked to be an employee only. Not (to serve) on the board. I was a director at Khazanah.

12.20pm: Amhari says that while he was at the PMO, he was seconded to Bank Negara. He says he felt that he needed to pursue a corporate career and that Khazanah would suit him better.

FMT

He says his last drawn salary was RM25,000.

He says he also received a salary from Orb Solutions. His last pay there was RM20,000.

12.22pm: Amhari says he was paid RM65,000 a month at Khazanah.

Shafee: Are you still saying you’re not ambitious?

Amhari: No, I think it’s subjective.

12.24pm: Amhari says he asked Najib after the 2013 elections to move him to Khazanah but that he only received the green light to go in 2016.

Amhari says he had to remind Najib several times about the transfer. Amhari says he could not pester him about it because Najib was a busy man.

12.31pm: Amhari describes his duties at Khazanah.

12.34pm: Shafee asks the witness about Utama Banking Group.

Amhari says he knows that it was owned by Effendi Norwawi.

12.56pm: They go over a list of companies linked to Low and his family.

1pm: Court breaks for lunch.

2.33pm: Najib is not present. The judge is annoyed.

2.34pm: Lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram makes a short but stern statement when Najib is again late for the proceedings after the lunch break.

Lim Huey Teng/Malaysiakini

Sri RaM says: “If this carries on, we will seek a revocation of the bail.”

Shafee says the accused may have gone to the mosque to pray

Sequerah: Please impress upon your client the need to be present and punctual.

The judge stands down until Najib’s return.

2.36pm: Najib enters and is seated in the dock. Court resumes.

Seth Akmal/TMI

2.38pm: Shafee resumes cross-examining Amhari.

Shafee refers to Amhari’s witness statement where he called Low a “master manipulator”.

Amhari: I concluded that he was a master manipulator because when there was a need to execute something, he could engage different people at different times to get what he wanted.

“Overwhelmingly, he is able to place people and meet people and persuade people in various positions, whether high positions, medium positions or low positions, involving domestic and international individuals and organisations, so that he will get what he wants.

“To a point that most of the time, we don’t know who these people are,” Amhari says.

The witness then employs a football analogy, saying that Low is like someone who knows the referee, the managers of both teams, and even the person who built the stadium, and can change the result of a game to his liking.

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Amhari agrees to Shafee’s suggestion that Low is a puppetmaster.

Shafee: He has on various occasions misled?

Amhari: For example, during negotiations for IPIC when I went to meet Khaldoon, I didn’t know that I was also to go to China. And when I went to both countries, everything was already done.

2.44pm: Amhari says Low was a puppet master and others were the puppets.

Amhari says Low was a person who always got what he wanted and “if he can’t get it one way, he will try it another way.”

2.45pm: Amhari says Low’s actions didn’t seem unlawful because he was able to convince people that what he was doing was right.

Shafee: Do you agree with the assumption that Najib never sanctioned the US$800,000, and that he has no idea (about it)? Isn’t that a manipulation to make you beholden to him?

Amhari: I didn’t see it that way.

Shafee: Isn’t it correct that Jho Low had compromised your position?

Amhari: No, because Jho Low is influential and he is close to Najib… Jho Low is very close to Najib.

Shafee: Jho Low never took back the money; he left it in the account under your name. Did he put you in a compromising position?

Amhari: He said he would take care of it.

Shafee asks him why he didn’t take it into his own hands to prepare a loan document for the US$200,000. Amhari says Jho Low told him there was no need for it, even though he asked him for a loan agreement.

Shafee: Do you agree that you were put in a compromised position here?

Amhari: Yes, but I want to elaborate.

Shafee tells him he can elaborate if it is important. Amhari says it is not.

Shafee tells him he can elaborate later when the prosecution commences its re-examination.

Shafee: You realise that Jho Low could sell ice to an eskimo.

Amhari: I knew that he was influential. But after GE14 when news reports started coming out, I realised what he had done.

3.20pm: Jho Low once suggested bringing over English Premier League team Manchester City for a friendly match, testifies Amhari.

Amhari is answering questions from Shafee on when he sought Najib’s confirmation on instructions given by Low.

Amhari: It does have something to do with Low, he suggested bringing Manchester City to Malaysia.

Shafee: So, Low was even involved in the suggestion for Manchester City to come to Malaysia?

Amhari: Serious matters like 1MDB and its board are handled by Azlin (when confirming Low’s instructions with Najib), but when it comes to social media and engaging people and events, Azlin said I can check and confirm on Low’s instruction.

3.22pm: Amhari tells the court that he was tasked with bringing Manchester City FC down to Kuala Lumpur. He adds he was tasked with this responsibility, thought up by Low, by Najib personally.

3.32pm: Shafee asks him about Jho Low’s involvement in the Iskandar project, to which Amhari says he is not aware that he was involved.

3.38pm: Amhari says that Azlin was a humble man who listened to all his officers, adding that he was also efficient.

4pm: Court resumes after a short break.

Shafee asks Amhari about his frequent meetings with Azlin and Jho Low at Prince Hotel KL.

Shafee: You’re in the PM’s office. What was this necessity to meet Jho Low at night in the city?

Amhari: Night, because Azlin wanted to meet up in the city. In the hotel, because Azlin preferred to meet at the hotel.

4.02pm: Amhari says the venue and time for the meetings were always decided by Azlin and Low.

Shafee asks that, if these meetings were official, why did they never take place in Putrajaya.

4.05pm: Amhari testifies that Jho Low was often seen at Najib‘s home.

He says this under cross-examination by Shafee, who is asking him why Amhari and Azlin thought of Low as someone close to the former premier.

Amhari also tells the court that in his and Azlin’s meetings with Low, it was Low who picked the venues, due to his closeness to Najib.

Shafee: Tell me, what have you personally witnessed that you can conclude that  Low was someone close to Najib?

Amhari: I saw him, more often than anyone else, going in and out of Najib’s home.

Shafee: You witnessed this personally? Where? Jalan Langgak Duta house or…

Amhari: Both (residences). Mostly at Jalan Langgak Duta.

4.21pm: Shafee asks Amhari if, during his second meeting with Low at TGI Fridays, they had merely acknowledged each other. Shafee then asks him if Low had paid for his meal that night. Amhari says yes, but that this information was not in his witness statement.

Shafee suggests to Amhari that Low had cultivated this relationship with him primarily because he was a public servant.

Amhari says that Low was always able to secure meetings with people in high places.

4.34pm: Shafee suggests to Amhari that Low darted in and out of those meetings with them because he didn’t want to give them time to think about his instructions.

Shafee also suggests that this was a charade by Low to prevent them from reflecting on the instructions. Amhari disagrees with this.

Shafee: Why did you buy into this story that you had to destroy all the papers from the meetings? What kind of public servant would do that?

Amhari: Because he said he had instructions from Najib.

4.38pm: Amhari says he didn’t keep any personal record of the meetings. Shafee says that because these were matters concerning the government, there needed to be some form of record-keeping.

Amhari disagrees, saying Najib holds a political office and sometimes, there are meetings that require no minutes.

4.43pm: Shafee asks judge Sequerah if they can continue questioning the same witness on the next day of the trial.

Court is adjourned to 9.30am on Tuesday.

Earlier reports:

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