KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court was told that fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho (pic) had a habit of “masking” the names of offshore companies to sound similar with that of established companies in his plan to embezzle money from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
This was suggested by lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed who was cross-examining former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi at Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial involving RM2.28mil yesterday.
While the witness said he could not comment on Low’s motive for doing that, he agreed that it was Low’s habit to do so.
The issue came about as Wan Aizuddin was questioning Shahrol on Abu Dhabi Malaysia Investment Company (Admic) Ltd, a company that was originally registered as Malaysian Abu Dhabi Investment Company (Madic) on March 5,2013.
The name was changed to Admic on March 12 that same year.
Wan Aizuddin: Do you know how this change of name happened?
Shahrol: I can tell you, there is quite a funny story behind it. Jho told me that the Abu Dhabi guys were sensitive that “Malaysia” came first in the name before “Abu Dhabi”. So I said “ikut suka mereka lah (up to them)”. Jho said they would like to do this (change the name), I said I have no problem.
Wan Aizuddin then asked Shahrol whether he had heard of the name Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp, which also bore the same acronym Admic and owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and British Sky Broadcasting.
Shahrol said it was his first time hearing the name and agreed that the acronym was the same.
Wan Aizuddin: I’m suggesting that the change of name (from Madic) to Admic was for the purpose to confuse people... to show that the Admic could be the (media investment firm) Admic incorporated in Abu Dhabi.
Shahrol: No comment on that.
Wan Aizuddin: Would you also agree that Jho Low has always been in this habit of incorporating offshore companies having similar names with well established companies?
Wan Aizuddin: I put it to you, that this change of name was a way, by Jho Low, to perfect his plan in order for him to embezzle billions of dollars from 1MDB.
Shahrol: I cannot comment on his motivation.
Wan Aizuddin: But you agree he is in the habit (of doing similar names).
Shahrol: That I do.
According to Shahrol’s witness statement, Admic was Low’s brainchild and meant to become a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for a fundraising project called “Project Catalyze” to raise US$6bil.
The court had previously heard testimonies that Aabar Investments PJS Ltd (Aabar BVI) was not the same as Aabar Investment PJS, which is the actual subsidiary of International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).
Aabar BVI was set up by Low and his associates in British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the company was used to misrepresent the other Aabar Investment PJS.
Low also set up Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners, a shell company with a similar name to real estate private equity firm Blackstone Real Estate.
Najib, 67, is facing four charges of abusing his position to obtain gratification totalling RM2.28bil in 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money.
The hearing before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues today.
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