Only then-prime minister Najib Abdul Razak and Jho Low had the “full picture” of manoeuvrings in relation to 1MDB dealings at the time, a former senior aide to Najib told the Kuala Lumpur High Court today.
Testifying at the 1MDB criminal trial of his former boss, Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, also labelled Low a “master manipulator” when dealing with local and foreign parties, and that much of this was known to Najib.
Amhari was testifying in front of judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah on 1MDB’s joint ventures with PetroSaudi International (PSI) and Aabar Investments PJS BVI (Aabar BVI).
Reading from his witness statement, Amhari explained that he began serving as Najib’s special officer, on loan from Bank Negara Malaysia, from 2008 when the latter was still deputy prime minister.
The eighth witness explained that, among others, part of his duties when Najib became premier in 2009 was to coordinate programmes related to 1MDB, under the supervision of the late Azlin Alias, then the economy division director under the Prime Minister’s Office.
Azlin was also Najib’s private secretary at the time.
“Throughout my experience dealing with Jho, I found that he is smart and manipulating when dealing with officers of various levels and ranks, from Malaysia or overseas, most of which was known to Najib.
“Therefore, only Jho and Najib have the fullest picture on the manoeuvrings they were planning.
“Jho was a master manipulator and in this situation, I can now say that I was used for insincere purposes,” Amhari told the court.
It was reported that Aabar BVI was a company set up to appear as Aabar, a legitimate subsidiary of the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).
Instead, Aabar BVI was controlled by rogue Aabar officials in coordination with Low (photo).
Amhari further testified that he and Azlin only knew of alleged misappropriation involving the sovereign wealth fund after media reports began surfacing from 2014, as the duo allegedly worked in “silos”.
Elaborating further, Amhari testified that in the beginning, Low would prep answers to be used or instruct Azlin on initiating “damage control or follow-ups” when international and local media such as Sarawak Report, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and now-shuttered The Malaysian Insider began reporting on the fund in 2014 and 2015.
“I confirm my role in this Petrosaudi issue was to act as a go-between to coordinate meetings between Azlin and Jho Low. I attended the discussions.
“…Meanwhile, my involvement in the Aabar joint venture was to help facilitate (matters) so that the Malaysian government and UAE government did not take the issue of the IPIC payment to the international court,” he said.
He added that despite this, Azlin was not too perturbed by initial media reports as they mainly pertained to Low’s indulgent lifestyle and spending, said to be from 1MDB funds.
This, despite the fact that the news had become fodder for gossip in Malaysia and added pressure to the entire Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as it reflected poorly on Najib’s reputation and image.
However, reports began appearing in early 2015 soon became a “red flag to be handled by the PMO, especially through Azlin”.
This is as Amhari said exposes began to involve Najib, and involved purported “evidence”, including pictures, email documents and bank transactions concerning alleged misappropriation of 1MDB funds through the Petrosaudi-1MDB dealings and via Low’s private bank accounts.
Najib’s image, according to the witness, began to be impacted in relation to reports on the purchases of several properties and the alleged use of 1MDB fund by his stepson Riza Aziz and the latter’s Hollywood movie production house.
The witness had earlier testified that Low, whose real name is Low Taek Jho, had prepared a series of answers for the PMO to use in case 1MDB was questioned by anyone.
Amhari claimed this was communicated to him and Azlin via emails and meetings between the three.
“Throughout this time, we (Amhari and Azlin) were instructed by Low through talking points provided by him to inform everyone at the PMO that these (allegations) were manipulations by the opposition and by those who wish to see Najib fall,” he testified further.
Amhari is expected to continue his testimony on Wednesday.
Judge Sequerah allowed for proceedings to be postponed after lead defence counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah stated he had to rush to a relative’s funeral. – Malaysiakini