‘Casual lunch’ with Jho Low

KUALA LUMPUR: Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, had lunch with bank officers and Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) representatives at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel here 13 years ago, the High Court heard.

Former AmInvestment Bank Bhd managing director Kok Tuck Cheong, 67, testified at Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial here yesterday that the casual lunch at the five-star hotel was attended by five or seven AmBank and TIA officers in 2009.

The prosecution witness, who was cross-examined by Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, also said that he was introduced to Low by AmBank’s director of banking relationship Chan Wan Seong at the same lunch.

Asked whether the luncheon had anything to do with the issuance of the Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN) worth RM5bil by TIA, Kok said they were not discussing serious business as it was merely a “casual lunch”.

The witness said he could not remember if former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi was present at that time.

Muhammad Shafee: Who footed the bill?

Kok: Could be one of the bank officers or the other side (TIA) but it was definitely not me.

Muhammad Shafee: Did you know that Jho Low was once an adviser for TIA?

Kok: His name was mentioned but it was not a concrete fact.

Muhammad Shafee: Officially, was he (Low) on the board as a TIA adviser?

Kok: Not (an adviser) at that (lunch) meeting.

TIA was established in 2009 by the Terengganu state government before it was taken over by the Federal Government and renamed 1MDB.

The court also heard from another former AmBank managing director, Cheah Tek Kuang, who testified that he was introduced to Najib by Low in a meeting at Najib’s residence in 2011.

Cheah had met with Najib to discuss the opening of a current bank account with AmBank and the incoming monies of US$100mil into the account from Saudi Arabia.

The witness, who was re-examined by lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, said when he arrived at Najib’s home, Low also arrived in a separate vehicle.

“When I entered the house, he was the one who introduced me to Najib,” Cheah said.

Sri Ram: You said Jho Low was there. I didn’t understand you, can you explain to His Lordship, when you arrived, was Jho Low already there?

Cheah: No, he is in a different car, so when I walked to the house, he introduced me to Datuk Seri Najib.

Sri Ram: He was the one who introduced you to Datuk Seri Najib?

Cheah: Yes.

The witness also said that he immediately left the place after obtaining Najib’s signature for the bank forms.

Sri Ram: Previously, you said that you were quite nervous when you were there. You left after Najib signed the forms?

Cheah: Yes, I “cabut” (left quickly) already with the documents.

Sri Ram: Where was Jho Low when you left?

Cheah: I don’t know.

Sri Ram: Did he accompany you (when you left)?

Cheah: No.

Last week, Cheah testified that he assisted Najib in opening the current account to facilitate the incoming US$100mil from Saudi Arabia, said to be a recognition for Najib’s work in championing Islam.

Najib, 69, is on trial for 25 charges in total - four for abuse of power that allegedly brought him financial benefit to the tune of RM2.28bil; and 21 for money laundering involving the same amount of money.

The hearing continues before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah today.

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