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China-funded megaprojects were to have 'saved' 1MDB, Malaysian court told

Pauline Wong
Pauline Wong9/6/2019 07:00 AM GMT+08  • 4 min read
China-funded megaprojects were to have 'saved' 1MDB, Malaysian court told
SINGAPORE (Sept 9): A key witness in the trial of former prime minister of Malaysia Najib Abdul Razak over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal has revealed the wheeling and dealing that Najib had done with China to “save” the sinking 1MDB.
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SINGAPORE (Sept 9): A key witness in the trial of former prime minister of Malaysia Najib Abdul Razak over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal has revealed the wheeling and dealing that Najib had done with China to “save” the sinking 1MDB.

By replacing one controversial development project with another, Najib had hoped the mega infrastructure projects funded with Chinese money would clear off 1MDB’s debts, his former special officer Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin testified on Sept 4.

The 43-year-old told the Kuala Lumpur High Court that he had been sent to China to convince its officials to help pay off 1MDB’s debts — a task only Najib and businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, knew about, Amhari added.

According to press reports, Amhari, the eighth prosecution witness, said the projects that were offered to China in exchange for help with 1MDB’s debts included the East Coast Rail Link, the Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline, the Multi-Product Pipeline and the development of Federal Territory Labuan into an offshore banking and tourism hub.

All these dealings were conducted under the watchful eye of Low, who, Amhari said, was given the mandate to carry out the plans to bail out the troubled 1MDB. Amhari inferred so based on the circumstances and documents prepared by Low, which had talking points for his “secret meeting” with Chinese officials. Low was also said to be present at Amhari’s meetings with them.

“I believe that Najib was in the know and had given the mandate to Low to plan and manage bailout efforts on debts and losses incurred by 1MDB and SRC International,” Amhari said, referring to the 1MDB subsidiary. He also described Low, 37, who is now a fugitive, as “smart and manipulative”.

“Throughout my experience dealing with Jho [Low], I found that he is smart and manipulative when dealing with officers of various levels and ranks, from Malaysia or overseas, most of which [sic] was known to Najib. Therefore, only Low and Najib have the fullest picture on the manoeuvrings they were planning.

“Jho was a master manipulator, and in this situation, I can now say that I was used for insincere purposes,” Amhari said.

Indeed, the Penang-born international social high-flyer had a finger deep in the 1MDB pie. Amhari, on his first day on the stand, said Najib’s aides, including Azlin Alias, Amhari’s own superior at the time, received instructions from Low, and Low would immediately follow up with them after meetings with Najib about 1MDB.

Recalling how Azlin had lost his cool over the 1MDB scandal, Amhari said his usually stoic former boss had vented his frustration by slamming a file on the table and shouting “Duit 1MDB lah bro!” (It’s 1MDB money, bro!) after a meeting with Najib. Azlin, who was Najib’s chief private secretary, died in a helicopter crash in April 2015.

During cross-examination by Najib’s lead defence counsel, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, on Sept 5, Amhari revealed that Low had asked him to open a BSI Bank account in Singapore “in preparation” for the 2013 general election. That bank account is also the subject matter of several 1MDB charges against Najib.

The trial, which began on Aug 28, is the second in which Najib is facing the music for his alleged involvement in the siphoning of RM2.6 billion from 1MDB coffers for his personal gain. In what is believed to be the biggest and most wide-ranging graft in recent years, Najib faces four charges of abuse of power and 21 charges for money laundering involving a staggering RM2.28 billion. He also faces seven counts of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and laundering of RM42 million from SRC International.

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