Najib’s 1MDB Trial: Day Three

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Jho Low prepped 1MDB FAQ for PMO in case project questioned.

9.51am: Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah is hearing a case mention on a forfeiture suit against OBYU Holdings Sdn Bhd over 1MDB-related assets.

9.58am: Lead defence counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah addresses the court. He is requesting the return of his passport for a work-related trip to Sydney from Thursday until Sunday.

The passport was surrendered after the lawyer was charged with money-laundering and tax offences in relation to the RM9.5 million he received from Najib in 2013 and 2014.

10.03am: Sequerah allows the application.

10.10am: The court is allowed a short break.

10.12am: Former prime minister Najib Razak enters courtroom along with a handful of supporters. His lawyers return with Shafee conversing with Sri Ram.

Firdaus Latif

10.15am: Court in session. Companies Commission officer Rafidah Yahaya returns to the witness stand and continues verifying documents.

Hasnoor Hussain/TMI

10.21am: Documents related to Mastika Lagenda Sdn Bhd are being verified and tendered as evidence.

10.26am: Documents tendered include appointment of directors, annual returns and company addresses.

10.35am: Mastika Lagenda was an independent power producer and among “assets of dubious value” acquired by 1MDB, according to Sri Ram in his opening statement last Tuesday.

10.37am: Shafee begins his cross-examination.

He asks the witness whether she can obtain documents regarding Wynton Private Equity Group that was formed in 2003 and now dissolved.

Rafidah says she may return with the information by Thursday.

10.38am: Shafee asks if Rafidah can obtain information from UBG (Utama Banking) Group Bhd, between 2004 and 2014. The matter is related to Jho Low.

10.39am: Rafidah is released, subject to be recalled.

10.40am: The hearing continues with the prosecution calling their eighth witness, Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, who used to work as special officer to Najib Razak when the latter was the deputy prime minister and later the prime minister.

Hasnoor Hussain/TMI

Amhari testifies that he was one of the two directors of Orb Solutions Sdn Bhd, which was formed in Jan 2010 to promote the 1Malaysia brand and run the 1Malaysia blog for Najib.

10.43am: Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib begins the examination-in-chief.

Amhari says he has never testified in court before.

10.45am: Shafee addresses the court, stating that there are statements in Amhari’s witness statement which are hearsay.

10.48am: In 2006, Amhari joined the EPU under then minister Effendi Norwawi. He later worked as a media officer with Najib, the then deputy prime minister.

10.51am: After Najib became prime minister in 2009, Amhari became a special officer and reported to Najib’s principal private secretary Azlin Alias.

The witness says until 2014, he was a director of ORB Solutions Sdn Bhd, where a previous witness, Noorhaina Hirawani Mohd Noor, served as CEO.

10.55am: Amhari says that he first met Najib when he was during a job interview in 2008. Najib was the deputy prime minister at the time.

“In my service of about 10 years, I found that Najib is a gentleman, who is capable of carrying out his duties, and is charismatic and intelligent in working out his plans.”

Amhari says Najib allowed his officers to express their views. This allowed Najib to make strategic decisions.

Amhari says he was advised by senior officers never to share instructions from Najib with others.

11am: Amhari believes Najib knew Jho Low before they met.

He says Low appeared to be closer to Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, and talked to her many times on the phone.

11.01am: Amhari identifies Low from a picture shown by Akram.

Najib regularly met Low, the witness says, conferring with Amhari and Azlin about Low.

11.03am: Najib also knew Dennis See.

See and Low appear to be part of Najib’s “inner circle”.

Amhari once received a text message from Low: “Bro, I heard you are in DPM office. Congratulations on your appointment and we will be in touch.”

The witness says he found out from Low that he became close with Najib because he knew his stepson, Riza Aziz.

Low is described as “charismatic”.

11.05am: Amhari testifies that Low relayed instructions from Najib to him.

Low also relayed instructions to Azlin, the witness adds.

“He (Low) was the unofficial adviser to Najib, especially in terms of proposals on 1MDB.

“Low arranged investment planning and G2G (government-to-government), political planning (caturan politik), which include funds received by Najib.”

Amhari adds that on many occasions, Najib himself confirmed the instructions relayed by Low as his own.

11.09am: Azlin died in a helicopter crash in 2015. Amhari describes Azlin as loyal and competent.

“He also knew how to keep secret all dealings relating to Datuk Seri Najib. This was why he was trusted on many matters.”

11.11am: Jho Low dealt directly with Najib, Amhari says.

“Jho knew me earlier than Azlin. He used me to get to know Azlin better.”

The witness says the three met at a hotel to get to know one another better.

Najib never instructed them to meet Low.

11.14am: After the 1MDB scandal was exposed, Low began to use passwords for email communications with the duo.

Low was also frequently late for his appointments. By the time the 1MDB scandal was publicised, Low had bodyguards, Amhari says.

He describes Low as easy-going and always with a smile.

11.17am: Officers worked in “silos” and Najib never gave them instructions regarding Low.

Amhari says he treated Low as a Najib confidant and someone who commanded the former prime minister’s trust.

11.19am: Azlin was known to counter-check instructions from Low with Najib the next day.

11.22am: Amhari says he was informed by Low that he was to join a meeting regarding 1MDB’s precursor, Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA).

11.25am: The meeting was with then Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin.

Amhari testifies that the informal meeting was held at Sultan Mizan’s palace in Kuala Lumpur. Also present was the Terengganu ruler’s brother-in-law Aziz Akhir.

He says that Low brought up TIA during the meeting, but adds that Sultan Mizan did not make any decision on, nor said anything negative about the proposal.

TIA was set up in 2008 with the stated aim of ensuring the economic development of Terengganu.

11.30am: Amhari tells the court that he first learned about the plan to form TIA through fundraising when Jho Low briefed him on the matter in 2008.

Amhari says that Low used a whiteboard in his kitchen in his Jalan Kia Peng home to explain his plans for TIA. For the record, TIA later changed its name to 1MDB.

The witness says that he struggled to comprehend most of Low’s plan due to his inexperience in investment banking and fundraising.

He adds, however, that what he did understand was that TIA would raise funds through the issuance of bonds for overseas investment.

According to Low, the investment was expected to be profitable, and would be channelled back to the rakyat through government policies, including community programmes.

11.40am: The Terengganu government was unhappy with the structure plan for TIA, the court hears, because the state’s interests would not be represented in the company.

Amhari says that this was conveyed by the Terengganu government in a May 2009 meeting.

He adds that the state government was also unhappy about its Menteri Besar Inc being limited to an inactive role on the TIA board of directors.

Amhari says he then relayed this to Najib’s chief private secretary Ab Aziz Kassim, who then told him to await Najib’s instructions.

11.45am: Jho Low was involved in preparing answers for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to use in case 1MDB was questioned by anyone.

Amhari says this was done through emails and meetings between him, Low and the late Azlin.

He tells the court that there were also meetings in which Low prepared documents and information for the PMO when and if questions arose on several issues, including on 1MDB.

12pm: Only Najib and Jho Low had the “full picture” of their plans for 1MDB, the court hears.

According to Amhari, he and Azlin only knew about the misappropriation in the state investment fund after it was reported in the media.

Amhari testifies that this was because their work related to the company had been divided into silos.

He adds that he found Low to be someone who was good at manipulating people when dealing with officials in and outside Malaysia.

“Low was the master manipulator, and in this situation, I can say that I was used for dishonest intentions,” he says, reading from a prepared witness statement.

12.10pm: Amhari speaks about the venture between 1MDB and PetroSaudi and Aabar.

He says his exposure to the venture was limited as Azlin was the officer who handled 1MDB affairs in the Prime Minister’s Department and Finance Ministry.

12.14pm: Amhari says Low requested that he arrange a meeting with Azlin to discuss the 1MDB venture with PetroSaudi and Aabar.

He says subsequent meetings with Azlin and Low were regarding 1MDB “milestones”.

12.15pm: 1MDB was flagged by the PMO as an issue that needed to be handled in early 2015, testifies Amhari.

Patrick Goh/The Edge

Reading out from his witness statement during examination-in-chief, Amhari says that this occurred between January and February that year, when pictures, emails, and documents related to 1MDB began to spread.

“In early 2015, the revelation began to be an issue that needed to be tackled by the PMO especially through Azlin Alias,” he says.

“This is because the media began to spread the issue of 1MDB involving Najib. Azlin was involved in tackling the issue as he was the most capable and with know-how about 1MDB.

“The issue began to be triggered around January and February 2015 with the spread of exposés, including with supporting evidence like pictures, documents, emails, bank transactions and money transfers linked to the misappropriation of 1MDB money via the Petrosaudi International-1MDB joint venture that is said to have been transferred to Low Taek Jho’s personal accounts.”

12.24pm: Low “aggressively” ramped up damage control at the end of 2014 and early 2015 when the 1MDB scandal was reported by Sarawak Report, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and The Malaysian Insider, Amhari says.

12.25pm: Low would give instructions to Azlin to carry out “damage control” or “follow up” to calm the situation, the court hears.

Amhari says his role in the PetroSaudi venture was limited, and that he served as the middleman between Azlin and Low. He says his role in the Aabar venture was limited, too.

12.28pm: Amhari says in early 2015, media reports linking Riza’s film company, Red Granite Pictures, to 1MDB funds began to emerge.

In early 2015, he says, Azlin was increasingly under stress, and on one occasion, slammed documents on the table, shouting “Duit 1MDB lah bro!”.

Amhari says the outburst was out of character for Azlin.

12.55pm: Low provided five letters, including those purportedly from Saudi Arabia, to avert any probe into 1MDB, testifies Amhari.

Reading out from his voluminous witness statement, Amhari says that these letters are titled:

  • ‘Re: Letter of Support Re: Petrosaudi International’ from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to Najib, dated May 10, 2011
  • ‘Re: Letter of Confirmation Re: PetroSaudi International’ from the Malaysian ambassador in Saudi Arabia to 1MDB, dated May 7, 2011
  • ‘Reference Letter for Mr Tarek Essam Obaid in Saudi Arabia’ from the Regional Management Commercial Banking Division Government Institution Department Central Region to 1MDB, dated May 1, 2011
  • ‘Letter of Reference and Confirmation for Petrosaudi International, a Company Incorporated in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’ from Helvetica Wealth Management Partners AG to 1MDB, dated Oct 1, 2010
  • A letter from JP Morgan (Suisse) SA to 1MDB, dated May 3, 2011

Amhari says that the documents were given to him and Azlin between the end of 2014 and early 2015.

1.06pm: The court adjourns today’s hearing, as Shafee has to rush to a relative’s funeral.

During his application to get his passport returned earlier this morning, Shafee informed Sequerah that two of his relatives, including a cousin, were in separate hospitals due to dengue fever and a heart attack.

He cited this as one of the reasons that he would return to Malaysia as soon as possible after representing a client in Australia, saying that he would want to be close in case anything happens to his relatives.

Barely an hour later, however, Shafee informed the court that he just received news that the relative infected with dengue had just passed away.

He then requested the court to allow for an early adjournment to attend the funeral. The prosecution did not object.

Earlier reports:

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