1MDB trial: Jho Low convinced Najib aides to open overseas bank accounts, said Najib gave his 'blessing'

It took Jho Low several meetings to convince former permier Najib Razak's principal private secretary to proceed with the account openings, as the latter was uncomfortable with the arrangement.
It took Jho Low several meetings to convince former permier Najib Razak's principal private secretary to proceed with the account openings, as the latter was uncomfortable with the arrangement.PHOTO: THE STAR PUBLICATION

KUALA LUMPUR - A former special officer to Najib Razak told the High Court on Wednesday (Sept 4) that he and the former principal private secretary to the ex-prime minister were asked by fugitive financier Low Taek Jho to open overseas bank accounts in their names as a standby, possibly to be used for political purposes.

Low made the request after receiving a “nod” from Najib, said Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, who was 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.

Mr Amhari testified that he and the late Datuk Seri Azlin Alias opened accounts at BSI Bank in Singapore in 2012.

“Jho Low told us that Datuk Seri (Najib) had given us his blessing to open the accounts, saying ‘just in case and stand by’. He also told us there was a possibility that the accounts would be used for political purposes, and that he would manage them,” he said.

Mr Amhari said he and Mr Azlin were concerned that if they did not follow the order, their safety and that of their families could be threatened, adding that Mr Azlin had told him to “just play along”.  

Mr Amhari said despite the initial hiccups when opening his account, the problems were resolved. 

In 2016, Mr Amhari was contacted by a BSI officer in Switzerland informing him that over US$800,000 (S$1.1 million) had been deposited into his account. The bank later instructed him to cash out the balance as it was terminating its dealings with him.

This led to Low attempting to help Mr Amhari to open a bank account in Shanghai, but failed. Subsequently, with the help of an “introducer”, Low managed to assist Mr Amhari to open a new account with Kasikorn Bank in Bangkok.

But an attempt to transfer the cash from BSI to Kasikorn Bank failed and Mr Amhari was told by Low that he would resolve the issue. “Until now I don’t know what happened to the money,” said Mr Amhari. 

 
 
 

On Tuesday, the court heard that Low had “extraordinary powers” due to his involvement in various dealings linked to the former PM.

Mr Amhari told the court that Low had worked behind the scenes for Najib in the state fund, government-to-government negotiations, international relations as well as political arrangements.

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.

Najib, whose Barisan Nasional coalition lost the general election last year because of, among other things, voter anger over the 1MDB scandal, has maintained his innocence and denounced the charges as politically motivated.