1MDB trial: Lawyer says former Malaysia PM Najib Razak was not aware of ex-aide’s bank account

Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (right) is leading former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak's defence team.
Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (right) is leading former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak's defence team.PHOTO: KOSMO

KUALA LUMPUR – The defence team for Najib Razak on Thursday (Sept 5) sought to distance the former Malaysian premier from orders he allegedly gave an aide through fugitive financier Low Taek Jho to open a bank account with the Singapore branch of Swiss bank BSI in 2012.

During cross-examinations, lead defence counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said Mr Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, who was then a special officer to Najib, had failed to check if the instruction to open overseas bank accounts, purportedly for political purposes, was actually from the then-Prime Minister.

“You never communicated this fact to him, that Low asked you to open the account... You literally believed him (Low) and did not bother to come back and tell your boss (Najib),” Tan Sri Shafee said in the High Court.

He added that until Mr Amhari’s testimony on Wednesday, his client was unaware of the existence of the account.

The former aide had testified earlier in the week that Low made the request to open the accounts after receiving a “nod” from Najib.

Mr Amhari is the eighth prosecution witness in the hearing on the alleged role of the financier – better known as Jho Low – in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption case.

Responding to Mr Shafee’s assertions on Thursday (Sept 5), Mr Amhari said it was not easy to see the former leader, as he was a junior officer.
Instead, he took his cue from his immediate superior and Najib’s then principal private secretary, Datuk Seri Azlin Alias.

“At that time, the one who meets Najib is Azlin. I did not have the opportunity like Azlin to meet Najib,” he said. Mr Azlin died in 2015 in a helicopter crash.

Mr Amhari also denied Mr Shafee’s claim that the money deposited in the Swiss account was “your reward for helping Low in many transactions”.

 
 
 
 

On Wednesday, Mr Amhari said he was contacted in 2016 by a BSI officer from Switzerland informing him that more than US$800,000 (S$1.1 million) had been deposited into an account in his name.

He added that the bank later instructed him to cash out the balance, as it was terminating its dealings with him, but he did not act on it.

On Thursday (Sept 5), the court also heard that Low was described as a “master manipulator” who was very effective in getting people to do what he wanted and could even “sell ice to an Eskimo”.

Mr Amhari said Low was good at controlling the information flow to make sure those acting for him would not be able to read his whole plans. Likening Low to someone with connections to all parties, he said in response to Mr Shafee: “If it’s a football match, I may have been asked to meet the referee but I know it’s fixed because he (Low) already knows the manager of Team A and Team B, the supporters and even the people who made the stadium.” 

He also said  Low lent him US$200,000 as a bridging loan to buy a home in Kota Damansara in 2010. Mr Amhari described Low, now a wanted man, as a “good lender” who did not pester him for repayment.

The hearing will continue next Tuesday at 9.30am.

Najib is facing 21 counts of money laundering and four counts of abuse of power for allegedly receiving illegal transfers of RM2.28 billion (S$750 million) between 2011 and 2014 from 1MDB, a state fund that he controlled.

Public anger at the scandal was among factors leading to Najib's ouster as his Barisan Nasional coalition lost its six-decade grip on power in the general election in 2018.

He has maintained his innocence and denounced the charges as politically motivated.