KUALA LUMPUR : Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyers today (May 20) sought to suggest that the now fugitive Low Taek Jho was akin to an octopus who had global reach in his scheme involving government-owned firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) funds.
In Najib’s ongoing trial today, his lawyers sought to highlight Low’s role in the siphoning of hundreds of millions of US dollars from 1MDB unit 1MDB Global Investments Limited’s (1MDB GIL) bank accounts into companies controlled or owned by Low, as part of Najib’s defence against the power abuse and money laundering charges in the trial.
In seeking to lay out part of Najib’s defence in the trial in relation to more than RM2 billion of 1MDB funds, his lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed went through excerpts of a January 18, 2017 news report by financial paper The Edge in court.
The news report contained the full statement of facts by the Singapore attorney general on a trial in Singapore where Falcon Private Bank’s Singapore branch manager Jens Fred Sturzenegger was convicted in relation to millions of US dollars originating from 1MDB and flowing to and through Falcon Private Bank accounts of four entities allegedly ultimately controlled by Low.
Wan Aizuddin was highlighting various portions of the statement of facts in the Singapore case as reported by The Edge, asking 1MDB former CEO Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman — who is the 10th prosecution witness in Najib’s case — about the matters disclosed in the Singapore case.
At one point, High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah questioned the purpose of Najib’s lawyer reading out extensively the facts from the 2017 Singapore case, when Mohd Hazem said he did not have knowledge of such contents.
Wan Aizuddin then said that he would only read out specific portions that were “very relevant” to Najib’s defence, saying: “This forms part of our defence that the real person, the real thief is Jho Low.”
Wan Aizuddin explained that Mohd Hazem was also the director of 1MDB GIL and was in control of the company’s funds, saying that he was using the 2017 article to show Mohd Hazem where all the funds from 1MDB GIL’s bank account — which initially had US$2.7 billion in March 2013 — had went to and that he had to confront the former 1MDB man whether he knew of such transactions.
Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah then said the legal team had asked Singapore lawyers to obtain the actual transcript from the Singapore courts instead of just basing it on The Edge article and as Najib has an interest in it, but said such a request was denied by the courts.
“I can’t believe it when they said no, it’s shocking, they should be transparent. It’s a public document, they said ‘no’, we can’t give it to you. The Singapore lawyers were denied. They gave no reason, just as we had similar problems in New York, all these are highly democratic countries,” Shafee said.
Shafee said that the facts were important to show how 1MDB funds that went to Tanore Financial Corporation was in an account that was being “manipulated by one man” in secrecy, referring to Low.
“Jho Low is like an octopus, plenty of tentacles reaching out to everybody throughout the globe, that’s what we want to show,” he said.
The prosecution had on the first day of Najib’s trial said it would show that 1MDB GIL had on March 19, 2013 only received US$2.721 billion of the US$3 billion funds it raised with the balance paid to arranger Goldman Sachs as fees, and that over US$1 billion of the US$2.721 billion was paid to the two funds Devonshire Funds Ltd and Enterprise Emerging Markets Fund (EEMF) on March 20 and March 21, 2013.
The prosecution had also said it would show that a total of US$890 million — including a US$430 million sum passing through Granton Property Holding under Low’s associate Eric Tan’s control — made its way within days from Devonshire and EEMF to Eric Tan-controlled Tanore Finance Corporation, and that it would also showed that Tanore had by early April 2013 transferred US$681 or over RM2 billion to Najib’s account.
The prosecution had also on the first day of Najib’s 1MDB trial said it would prove that Low was allegedly the “alter ego” and “mirror image” of Najib, and had also said it would establish facts that would result in an irresistible inference that both of them had acted as one at all material times.
When asked today in hindsight whether he knew who received the US$3 billion that was raised by 1MDB GIL and mostly transferred out to three purported funds — Devonshire, EEMF, Cistenique Investment Fund — and who controlled all these monies subsequently, Mohd Hazem replied that it was “Jho Low”.
Among other things, Wan Aizuddin had today referred Mohd Hazem to the Singapore attorney-general’s statement of facts in the Falcon Private Bank banker’s case, including how funds totalling US$1.265 billion were transferred from Devonshire, EEMF and Cistenique Investment Fund between March 21 and March 25, 2013 into the Falcon Private Bank accounts of Granton and Tanore which had both had Tan as their beneficial owners, and that Singapore authorities had said Tan was a “proxy” for Low.
Based on the excerpts of the Singapore statement of facts highlighted by Wan Aizuddin, Mohd Hazem agreed that it showed that the Falcon Private Bank had already received indications on March 18, 2013 that money would be coming into the accounts linked to Low via Tan while the money only came in on March 19, further agreeing that this showed that Low had “pre-planned” the whole scheme to move out the funds from the US$3 billion fundraising once they were banked into 1MDB GIL’s bank account.
Asked by Wan Aizuddin, Mohd Hazem confirmed that he had “some suspicion” that the purported investment of 1MDB GIL’s funds in the three purported funds may mean the money would be given away to a third party, but also confirmed that he did not ask then 1MDB general counsel (also known as Low’s associate) Jasmine Loo about his suspicions but only “entertained” the suspicions in his own mind.
Following a series of other transactions highlighted by Wan Aizuddin of the 1MDB GIL funds such as through Tan-controlled Granton to Dragon Market Limited and subsequently to the Low-owned Dragon Dynasty Limited in 2013, Mohd Hazem agreed when given this suggestion by Wan Aizuddin: “Now you agree, based on the investigation as put down in this statement of facts by the AG of Singapore, it appears this money is going everywhere but those companies which those money is going to is always under the control of Jho Low?”
Wan Aizuddin later asked: “You would agree, based on these facts which has been adduced from this document, Jho Low is using the funds which belongs to 1MDB, namely the proceeds of the bond issuance, he is using the funds as his own, he is transferring these money as if he owns the money, you agree?”
Mohd Hazem replied “yes”.
Mohd Hazem also agreed with Wan Aizuddin that the Falcon Private Bank officials were aware that Low was in the alleged habit of submitting documents which are “cut and paste” or “copy paste” documentations to the bank to justify financial transactions, based on the Singapore statement of facts.
Najib’s 1MDB trial involving 25 charges is scheduled to resume on Monday, with about 70 days of hearing so far including today.
By : IDA LIM – MALAY MAIL