KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s former special officer has denied he protected fugitive financier Low Taek Jho during the early stages of the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) before it was federalised into 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin disagreed with suggestions from the defence that he did not raise issues on Low’s misrepresentations because he was close to him and benefiting from it.
Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah pointed out that Amhari had failed to highlight Low’s claims that he was an adviser to Terengganu ruler Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, who was then the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.Amhari said the matter had already been discussed and established by his superiors and other senior officers.
He added that it was common culture in the civil service to observe and listen rather than speak up, especially when there were other senior officers involved.
Shafee, who was grilling Amhari on the ninth day of the 1MDB trial, suggested that he failed to bring up the issue of Low’s misrepresentation to his superior Datuk Seri Ab Aziz Kassim nor to Najib after it was raised by an Istana Negara representative.
Shafee was referring to the minutes of a TIA meeting on June 30,2009, at one of the Parliament committee rooms which was chaired by the then Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Wan Abdul Aziz Wan Abdullah.
Amhari, former 1MDB president and CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, representatives from Menteri Besar Incorporated (MBI) Terengganu and a representative from Istana Negara, on behalf of Sultan Mizan, attended the meeting.
The Istana Negara representative had questioned who and what was Low’s role and even raised concerns that some people might be misusing the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s name.
Shafee: I’m putting it to you that you have a jaundiced way of looking at this. Get what I mean? Jaundice... mata juling. You are not looking at a proper perspective. I’d say that in the meeting you should have contributed to the content on who is Jho low, which you failed to. I put it to you that you failed to do so as the only representative from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Amhari: I don’t believe it’s necessary because the issue is out there and as a junior officer, we follow the orders of the more senior officers from the Finance Ministry and (it is up to them) how they will bring this problem up to the minister or the prime minister.
Shafee: I’m putting it to you that by keeping quiet, you perpetuated this misrepresentation.
Amhari: I disagree.
Shafee: I’m putting it to you, you kept quiet because you were close to Jho Low and you were benefiting from it.
Amhari: I disagree.
Amhari was also unsure if Wan Abdul Aziz raised the matter with the PMO but assumed that he (Wan Abdul Aziz) would have.
However, Amhari said he never found out from Wan Abdul Aziz because he was “too junior”.
While Amhari regarded it as a serious matter, he did not file a memo or put it in writing to Wan Abdul Aziz but only reported to him verbally on the issues with TIA, its bonds and the issue with Low as a verbal report was only what was requested.
When asked why he didn’t raise the matter with the prime minister and say there was something wrong with the character Jho Low, Amhari replied it was difficult to get access to Najib.
Shafee: Will there be a problem, putting it on record rather than oral? I’m putting it to you that you never reported, knowing rightly because you were protecting Jho Low.
Amhari: I disagree.
Shafee: To say that you never had the occasion to see Najib, I’m suggesting that it’s not true, it is merely an excuse by you.
Amhari: I disagree and I can explain.
Shafee: No, no, I think you will explain the same thing.
Najib, 66, faces 25 charges in total – 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.
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.
The hearing before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues today.