KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): A former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chief executive officer revealed at the High Court that fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low was the right-hand man of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and he was directing the dealings of 1MDB with the prime minister’s mandate.
Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman, 47, the 10th prosecution witness said there were six reasons why he held the view.
Firstly, he said he knew Jho Low via Datuk Azlin Alias who was Najib’s chief private secretary at that time which clearly showed that Jho Low was a man with access to the working team at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and carried the mandate of the prime minister.
Secondly, he said Jho Low had direct access to Najib in which he noticed that whenever he was having meetings and discussions with Najib on 1MDB, Jho Low would also be present.
"I can confirm Jho Low's presence with Datuk Seri Najib at several places abroad such as in New York in 2013 and in Abu Dhabi around 2013 and 2014 when I was attending a signing ceremony or meeting with foreign investors, ” he said in his witness statement in the corruption trial of Najib involving RM2.3bil 1MDB funds on Monday (Sept 14).
Thirdly, he said in several meetings on 1MDB with Najib in the former prime minister’s house, he saw Najib discussing with Jho Low earlier before Najib met him.
"After that, the three of us would meet on 1MDB issues in which Jho Low would play an active role in the discussion, ” he said.
Fourthly, he said the meeting with Jho Low was through Azlin who admitted himself that Jho Low represented the prime minister in 1MDB.
Fifthly, he said Jho Low also managed his proxies in 1MDB, among them, Jasmine Loo and Terence Geh who were appointed as senior management which required prior approval and concurrence by Najib.
Finally, he said Jho Low was also involved in arranging the composition of 1MDB board of directors chaired by Tan Sri Che Lodin Wok Kamaruddin so that all activities on 1MDB would easily be approved by the BOD.
Mohd Hazem claimed Jho Low was an individual who would fix, manipulate and devise all decisions, joint ventures, investments, finance and fund raising abroad for 1MDB projects which were instruments to obtain funds for Najib and Umno.
He said Jho Low told him himself and the latter trusted him as he was a good friend of Azlin.
"Based on this reason, Jho Low was comfortable to relate and order me through email and BBM (blackberry messenger) as well as via verbally, ” he said.
He said Jho Low would be operating from behind and his orders should be complied by him and former 1MDB CEO before him, Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi and Azmi Tahir, former finance officer of 1MDB.
"We have no choice and had to obey as the orders came from the prime minister who is the most powerful person making the decision.
"If I did not comply with the instruction, I was afraid it would affect by career and I could dismissed as the prime minister had absolute power to drop me from the company.
"Apart from that, I was also worried if I was deemed defying the prime minister’s order; he could jeopardise my career and I would not be able to work in the public and corporate sectors, ” he said.
He said Jho Low himself had reminded that Najib set up 1MDB to protect Umno funds and this was one of the ways to obtain political funds through the company controlled by the prime minister himself.
"I confirmed that when I was still working with 1MDB, the email I used for chat or matters relating to 1MDB was email@example.com.
"I can also confirm the email which Jho Low used to communicate with me was through the email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. I can also confirm that the email was used by Jho Low to channel instructions involved was the same and consistent with the chat via BBM as well as discussions directly with Jho Low, ” he said.
Relating the first meeting with Jho Low, Mohd Hazem said on July 15 2012, he met Azlin and Jho Low at Shangri La Hotel, Putrajaya and Azlin introduced Jho Low as the unofficial adviser to Najib to set up 1MDB.
The witness said in the meeting, Jho Low informed him that the actual purpose to set up 1MDB was to assist Umno through business involving 1MDB strategic investment but he did not say in detail how he would use 1MDB to help Umno.
He said Azlin did not say much in the meeting which was arranged for him to meet Jho Low. He said Jho Low gave the history and background of 1MDB including how he established Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) and change its name to 1MDB.
"He (Jho Low) did not go into detail but roughly I could gather that Jho Low and Datuk Seri Najib were involved in setting up TIA until it became 1MDB, ” he said.
Mohd Hazem claimed Jho Low also informed him that the company was completely under Najib and all decisions were under his authority.
"So I get the picture from that meeting that I need to obtain clearance from Jho Low if I were working in 1MDB. Datuk Azlin also confirmed the matter. That is why the real reason for the meeting was to inform me that if I started working at 1MDB, I have to report any decision and comply with the demands of the prime minister through his representatives, Jho Low and Datuk Azlin.
"Datuk Azlin trusted me because I was his old friend. At that time, I was in a dilemma to work as there many decisions involving politics which I have to obey if I started working in 1MDB.
"But I have no choice because the prime minister, who is Datuk Seri Najib, had signed and approved my appointment as chief operating officer (COO) and executive director of 1MDB, ” he said.
He added that he started working as group executive director and COO in 1MDB in August 2012 after settling his transfer from Sime Darby.
Mohd Hazem also said that Jho Low was an important person placed by Najib in 1MDB as a special adviser on 1MDB investment and fund-raising.
He said the matter was made known in the first meeting with Jho Low and any decision through them (Jho Low and Azlin) were instructions from Najib.
"I need to comply as Jho Low announced that all funds raised via 1MDB investment were in the interest of Umno and I cannot question the matter, ” he said
Najib, 67, is facing four counts of abusing his position to solicit bribes amounting to RM2.3bil from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.
The trial before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues on Tuesday (Sept 15). - Bernama
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