1MDB trial: 'Jho Low asked me to open overseas accounts'

Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin (far left) is the eighth prosecution witness in the hearing on the alleged role of fugitive financier Low Taek Jho in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad corruption case.
Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin (left) is the eighth prosecution witness in the hearing on the alleged role of fugitive financier Low Taek Jho in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad corruption case.PHOTO: CHINA PRESS

Najib's ex-aide tells court that financier said then-PM had given his nod for the move

A former special officer to Najib Razak yesterday told the High Court that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho had requested that he and another senior aide to the then Prime Minister open overseas bank accounts in their own names as a standby, possibly to be used for political purposes.

Low made the request after receiving the "nod" from Najib, said Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, 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) graft case.

Mr Amhari testified that he and Datuk Seri Azlin Alias, who was a principal private secretary to Najib, opened accounts at BSI Bank in Singapore in 2012.

"Jho Low told us that Datuk Seri (Najib) had given us his blessings 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," said Mr Amhari.

Mr Amhari said he and Mr Azlin, who died in 2015, were concerned that if they did not follow the "order", their safety as well as that of their families could be threatened.

He added that Mr Azlin told him to "just play along".

Mr Amhari told the court that he was contacted by a BSI officer in Switzerland in 2016 who informed him that more than US$800,000 (S$1.1 million) had been deposited in his account.

The bank later instructed him to cash out the balance as it was terminating its dealings with him.

This led to Low trying to help Mr Amhari open a bank account in Shanghai. He failed. Subsequently, with the help of an "introducer", Low managed to assist Mr Amhari to open a new account at Kasikorn Bank in Bangkok.

 
 
 
 

But a bid 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," Mr Amhari told the court.

The witness also described his feelings at the time, saying that although he respected Najib's directive, it was the "most difficult moment" in his job as he was worried about being directly involved in the plan to cover up the loss of 1MDB funds and the repayment of debts to International Petroleum Investment Co (Ipic) in Abu Dhabi.

As the directive came directly from Najib, Mr Amhari said he did not dare disagree, resulting in him experiencing immense pressure to the point of quitting, especially after the death of Mr Azlin in a helicopter crash on April 4, 2015.

The court also heard that Najib had taken steps to stop Abu Dhabi from seeking legal action after 1MDB defaulted on a bond payment guaranteed by Ipic in 2012, for the acquisition of two power plants.

On Tuesday, the court heard that Low had "extraordinary powers" due to his involvement in various dealings linked to Najib.

The former prime minister 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, has maintained his innocence and denounced the charges as politically motivated.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2019, with the headline ''Jho Low asked me to open overseas accounts''. Print Edition | Subscribe