Najib's former aide denies conspiring with Jho Low

Malaysia's 1MDB trial resumed this week, with former prime minister Najib Razak's defence seeking to pin down a witness as working with fugitive financier Jho Low to manipulate Najib into misappropriating billions of dollars from a state fund.

Mr Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, a former special officer working for Najib, represented the ex-premier at several 1Malaysia Development Berhad meetings and had described himself as a "mediator" among individuals involved with the state fund.

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$753 million) between 2011 and 2014 from 1MDB, a state fund that he controlled.

Defence lawyer Shafee Abdullah, in his cross-examination, accused Mr Amhari of defrauding 1MDB.

"You worked hand in hand with Jho Low from the beginning, hence the reason why Najib was (being) kept misinformed by you and Jho Low working in tandem," Mr Shafee said yesterday, a charge which the witness denied.

Low, whose full name is Low Taek Jho, has been in hiding since the 1MDB scandal broke in mid-2015, and the Malaysian authorities are still searching for him.

The defence has distanced Najib from Low, with Mr Shafee saying at the start of the trial last month that Low had "misled" Najib over 1MDB.

Mr Amhari, 43, in the course of his testimony in the High Court trial, had described Low as a "master manipulator". His testimony is seen as crucial due to his close involvement with both Najib and Low, and he had cooperated with the anti-graft agency last year after his arrest.

Regarding Mr Amhari's work with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Mr Shafee argued that the witness had cooperated with the authorities in order to seek leniency, and hoarded documents as a bargaining chip.

"You decided to work with MACC so that your own problems will be treated leniently, for offences that you obviously did. I mean, you are still not charged. This is a tit-for-tat, where you provide some information for them that would incriminate my client," Mr Shafee said.

Mr Amhari denied the allegation.

 
 
 
 

The former aide testified that Najib instructed him to go to China to facilitate 1MDB's bailout, and to Abu Dhabi to resolve 1MDB's debt woes with Mubadala Investment Co, Abu Dhabi's sovereign fund, in an attempt to prevent a dispute from landing in the International Arbitration Court.

But defence lawyer Shafee offered the notion that Najib had been misled throughout the 1MDB affair due to the inefficacy of his aides, ultimately leading to the failure to notify Najib of Low's dishonest characteristics.

Mr Amhari denied this and put forth that the former premier had always relied on Low's assessments and decisions, while Najib's spouse Rosmah Mansor had described Low as "very obliging".

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2019, with the headline 'Najib's former aide denies conspiring with Jho Low'. Print Edition | Subscribe