KUALA LUMPUR: The late principal private secretary to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had to firefight the damage caused by media reports on the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal as he was the one who knew the most about the state fund.
When news of the scandal broke, Datuk Seri Azlin Alias did not take it as a big issue as the reports had then focused on fugitive financier Low Taek Jho’s lavish lifestyle and not directly on Najib, the High Court was told yesterday.
Najib’s former special officer Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, 43, testified that Azlin had to handle the damage in early 2015 when the media started to play up the issue involving Najib.
“The biggest issue that caused a negative impact on Najib related to a property purchase and the funding of a Hollywood movie by Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz using 1MDB funds, ” Amhari said.
The witness said the media expose shocked everyone at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), including him and Azlin.
He said Low, commonly known as Jho Low, instructed him and Azlin through his talking points to inform everyone at the PMO that the issue was manipulated by the Opposition which wanted to bring down Najib.
Amhari recalled an incident during the height of the scandal in 2015 when Azlin blew his top.
“On that day, I had just arrived at my office in PMO and waited for Azlin in his office as Azlin met with Najib.
“As soon as he reached his office, he looked so stressed and vented out by yelling ‘Duit 1MDB lah, bro!’ (It’s 1MDB money, bro!) to me and slammed his files on the desk, ” he said.
Amhari said the incident was etched in his memory as Azlin was usually a calm and polite person who would have never raised his voice.
“At that time I believe Azlin was reacting to all of the media expose on 1MDB.
“He was so stressed, so I left his office as I did not want to bother him, ” he said.
Amhari also said that he read a news report on the 1MDB trial about Azlin arranging the opening of an AmBank account for Najib, by instructing former SRC International Sdn Bhd CEO Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil to handle the account.
This was the account that received a huge sum of RM2.6bil, purportedly a political donation.
“I was shocked to read that and I did not think it was entirely accurate, ” he said.
Describing Azlin as a loyalist who would follow instructions from his boss, Amhari said it was “illogical” to say that Azlin made the arrangement without the approval of Najib or Jho Low.
Referring to the same news report, Amhari said he now understood what Azlin meant with his “Duit 1MDB lah, bro!” remark.
“It was a huge probability that he was referring to the US$680mil or RM2.6bil that was in Najib’s private bank account, ” he said.
According to Amhari, Azlin never shared with him the details of the said account.
“This was because he was a secretive person when it comes to private affairs involving Najib, ” he said.
Azlin joined Najib’s team in 2008 when Najib was the deputy prime minister to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
He was 47 when he died in a helicopter crash on April 4,2015.
The hearing before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues today.
Najib, 66, is facing 25 charges – four for abuse of power that allegedly brought him financial benefit to the tune of RM2.3bil; and 21 for money laundering involving the same amount of money.
For alleged abuse of power, he was charged under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act, punishable under Section 24(1) of the same law.
He faces imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, if found guilty.