Drama at Najib Razak’s trial: Bomb scare, spending spree and Jho Low’s involvement

Najib, 66, is facing several criminal proceedings over the suspected laundering of US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR - A bomb scare, credit card spending spree in the millions of ringgit, and fugitive financier Jho Low's direct involvement with Najib Razak's personal finances.

The former premier's first of five trials have not been short of drama throughout this month as proceedings enter its final phase.

Currently on the dock for seven charges of corruption, power abuse and money laundering of SRC International's funds, Najib spent his 66th birthday this week in court

SRC, a former unit of state-fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), had received RM4 billion (S$1.33 billion) in loans from the civil servant pension fund KWAP, the court heard.

The loans were guaranteed by the finance ministry, when Najib was the finance minister.

Of this sum, RM42 million of SRC money was then channeled into Najib's personal accounts. The prosecution detailed this month how the money was used for private spending including purchase of designer items, luxury jewelry, and hotel stays that amounted to RM3.3 million.

On Thursday (July 25), the hearing was briefly adjourned after a bomb scare at the courthouse led to an emergency evacuation.

The proceeding continued after lunch, scrutinising into a former Ambank employee's Blackberry chats with Low regarding management and transactions of Najib's bank accounts.

According to the witness Joanna Yu, Low had instructed her to clear the chats but she failed to do so.

"But I didn't clear the chats, because I don't know how to," Ms Yu told the court.

Defence lawyer Harvinderjit Singh asked her if Low instructed the bank account opening in 2011, but the witness said it was Najib himself who requested the accounts set up.

Mr Harvinderjit also alleged that Low had ordered the transfer of RM27 million into Najib's private account - part of the RM42 million sum that was sent in tranches. Ms Yu, however, said she do not know.

It was revealed that Low already had a long relationship with Ambank, as "one of the bank's major client", the witness said.

Low, who was present at Najib's private home during the latter's set up of bank accounts, was able to authorise banking transactions, Ms Yu told the court.

Former SRC CEO Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil was the mandated person managing Najib's private accounts but if he was unavailable, Low would be to go-to man, Ms Yu said.

Both Low and Nik Faisal's precise whereabouts are unknown. Low is believed to be hiding in China while Nik Faisal is reportedly in Indonesia.

Low was described as Najib's manager and problem solver - witnesses in direct contact with the fugitive said.

Often Low would dispense instructions and alerts on upcoming transactions that needed to be approved by the bank.

It even boiled down to getting the bank allowing a credit card purchase of a Chanel watch in Hawaii back in 2014, according to Ms Yu.

According to New Straits Times daily, Najib's text messages, which were read out in court on Monday were: 'My platinum cards are not going through Jho. Can you call AmBank Visa and Mastercard right away? Thanks.'

Meanwhile, The Edge Financial Daily reported that Low would inform Ms Yu to ensure credit card expenses go through.

"Hi we are on holiday and there will be a purchase by you know who - PM", Low's message read.

The witness Ms Yu, and another Ambank employee Daniel Lee, were asked to leave their jobs in 2015 after news broke that 1MDB monies had gone into Najib's private accounts for his personal use. Ambank was fined RM53.7 million by central bank for breach of regulations.

Najib's two credit cards with Ambank had a combined spending limit of RM3 million. His last drawn salary as prime minister, and lawmaker was RM78,000 a month.
Ms Yu is the 54th prosecution witness, out of more than 60 witnesses the prosecution has lined up.

The trial is scheduled to end on Aug 15 with Najib's second trial of 25 charges on money laundering and corruption involving 1MDB's RM2.28 billion funds to be heard on Aug 19.

However, both sides are appealing to have the case postponed yet again to allow for the completion of the SRC trial.

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