KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Razak believes that fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, can assist in 1Malaysia Development Berhad's (1MDB) investments in the Middle East.
The former prime minister said that Low has always portrayed himself as someone who was influential in the Middle East.
"These countries have an access of cash money due to the increase in oil prices.
"I thought (berfikiran) that the clout (pengaruh) and relationships that Low had (in the Middle East) will help ease 1MDB's investments and missions (in the area)," said Najib.
He was reading from his 243-page statement, on his first day of taking the stand at his SRC International Sdn Bhd trial at the High Court on Tuesday (Dec 3).
Najib also told the court that Low was a "close acquaintance" (kenalan rapat) of the Sultan of Terengganu Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and his sister Tengku Datuk Rahimah Sultan Mahmud at the time that Terengganu Investment Agency Bhd (TIA) was formed.
(TIA was later taken over by the Federal Government to be turned into 1MDB)
"I was made to understand that Low was chosen as an advisor to the chairman of the board of advisers to TIA, who was Tuanku Mizan himself (at that time)," he added.
The court also heard that the Federal Government decided to take over TIA to avoid "embarrassment" to the Terengganu state government and to Tuanku Mizan, who was also the then-Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Najib said that that the Terengganu state government, Menteri Besar Terengganu Incorporated (MBTI), and Tuanku Mizan had formed TIA as a sovereign wealth fund with a capital of RM11bil.
He said that RM6bil was to come from the state's oil royalty, while RM5bil was to come from the issuing of Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN), which will be guaranteed by the Federal Government.
"But at the end, the state government and MBTI did not agree to the terms of the IMTN, even though it has been issued.
"Consequently, on Aug 8,2009, the Cabinet had allowed the Federal Government to take over TIA.
"It was a decision that was reluctantly made to protect the state government and the then-Yang di-Pertuan Agong from embarrassment and also to avoid a negative impact to Malaysian-issued bonds globally (impak buruk kepada pasaran bonds Malaysia secara global)," he added.
Proceedings are held before High Court judge Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.
The 66-year-old is currently facing seven charges – three for criminal breach of trust, one for abuse of power and three for money laundering involving SRC International funds totalling RM42mil.