Jho Low was 1MDB 'puppet master', witness tells court

KUALA LUMPUR: Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, was the 'puppet master' behind the operations of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) despite not holding any official position in the company, the High Court was told.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) senior investigating officer Nur Aida Arifin agreed with lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah that Low was the "puppet master" who strategised operations in the sovereign wealth fund.

The 49th prosecution witness was under cross-examination by Muhammad Shafee, who represented Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

"You said Low was active in strategising the operations of 1MDB. You mean like a chess game? A puppet master?" asked Muhammad Shafee, to which Nur Aida replied "yes".

"I put it to you that he (Jho Low) was in control?" he asked again, to which the witness also said "yes"

She agreed to another suggestion that in the early days of the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), the entity that later became 1MDB, Low was appointed as an adviser by the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin.

Nur Aida, however, disagreed to Muhammad Shafee's suggestion that former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi had developed a habit of taking orders from Low as the two had known each other for a long time.

Shahrol Azral had worked at Accenture Malaysia while Low's company, Utama Banking Group (UBG), was a client of Accenture.

"Shahrol Azral himself said in the court that all of his actions were based on orders from Low," said Muhammad Shafee.

"That is correct because Low's orders were from Najib. But it is not a habit," replied Nur Aida.

Najib, 70, is on trial for 25 charges in total – four for abuse of power that allegedly brought him the financial benefit to the tune of RM2.28bil; and 21 for money laundering involving the same amount of money.

The hearing resumes before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah tomorrow (May 28).

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