1MDB trial: Jho Low had 'extraordinary powers', says Najib's former special officer

Mr Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin said that Jho Low (pictured) had worked behind the scenes for Najib Razak in the state fund, government-to-government negotiations, international relations and political arrangements.
Mr Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin said that Jho Low (pictured) had worked behind the scenes for Najib Razak in the state fund, government-to-government negotiations, international relations and political arrangements.PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - A former special officer to Najib Razak has described fugitive financier Low Taek Jho as having "extraordinary powers" due to his involvement in various dealings linked to the former Malaysian premier.

Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, who is a key witness in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption trial, told the court on Tuesday (Sept 3) that Low, better known as Jho Low, had worked behind the scenes for Najib in the state fund, government-to-government negotiations, international relations and political arrangements.

Najib is facing 21 counts of money laundering and four counts of abuse of power for receiving illegal transfers totalling RM2.28 billion (S$750 million) between 2011 and 2014.

If convicted, Najib, 66, faces imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum, or value of the gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

Mr Amhari, who partly-owned digital agency Orb Solutions, testified that Low would "usually get the nod from Najib".

"Most times, I was informed by Najib that Jho Low's instructions have been agreed upon by him," the eighth prosecution witness told the court.

Describing Low as a person who is "important" to Najib, Mr Amhari said the wanted man was already working with Najib before he was appointed special officer to the Umno politician.

He added that Low appeared to be part of Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor's inner circle.

Mr Amhari had worked directly with Najib since 2009 on national economic policies and the annual Budget.

 
 
 

He also told the court that individuals working with Najib were only aware of issues directly related to their roles to ensure that top-secret matters remained confidential.

After the 1MDB scandal broke in 2015, e-mails became locked with passwords, he said.

Last week, seven prosecution witnesses testified in court, with prosecutors seeking to show that funds allegedly stolen by Najib from 1MDB were used to bolster his political standing. The prosecution said Najib had put himself in "sole control of important matters" at the state fund so that he could misappropriate money and cover up the theft.

Orb Solutions former chief executive officer Noorhaina Hirawani Mohd Noor, the fourth prosecution witness, confirmed that the company had received a RM2 million cheque and said that the purpose of Orb Solutions' services was to help Najib engage with the public in a "less formal manner".

The prosecution also named Low as "an important character" in the case, saying that he colluded with Najib in carrying out the illegal transfers of money.

Low, who faces criminal charges in Malaysia and the United States over his alleged central role in the 1MDB case, has consistently denied wrongdoing and his whereabouts are unknown.

The defence attempted last Thursday to portray Najib as a "tolerant leader" in racial and religious matters.

During a cross-examination with the fifth prosecution witness, Datuk Wong Nai Chee said Najib had provided allocations to Chinese vernacular schools and played a role in approving Xiamen University's campus in Malaysia, as well as upgrading the status of Hanjiang University College, New Era University College, Southern University College to university colleges.

"His insistence is that Chinese vernacular education should stay on because of the multicultural (country). He gave so much allocation to non-governmental organisations on Chinese matters, through me," he said, in reply to a question by lead defence counsel Shafee Abdullah.

Assistant registrar of companies at the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) Rafidah Yahaya also took the stand and verified hundreds of documents, including the appointment of directors in the early stages of 1MDB's predecessor, Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA). They were namely Datuk Mohd Bakke Salleh, Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin and Tan Sri Azlan Zainol.

 
 

In late 2009, Mr Bakke resigned as director and chairman of 1MDB, paving the way for Tan Sri Ong Gim Huat to be roped in as part of the board in February 2010. Mr Ong is a known long-time business partner of Tan Sri Larry Low Hock Peng, who is the father of Jho Low.

TIA's name was changed to 1MDB on Sept 25, 2009.

Najib, whose Barisan Nasional coalition lost in the general election last year amid voter anger over the 1MDB scandal, has maintained that he is innocent and that the charges against him are politically motivated.