1MDB Trial: Jho Low was right-hand man of Najib – Witness

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 (NNN-BERNAMA) — A former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) chief executive officer testified at the High Court today 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 where he had seen that whenever he had 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 RM2.3 billion 1MDB funds.

Thirdly, he said during several meetings on 1MDB with Najib in the former prime minister’s house, he had seen Najib earlier discussing with Jho Low before he would meet him.

“After that we three 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 also fixed IMDB 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 said 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 that he (Jho Low) 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 oral conversation,” he said.

He said Jho Low operated from behind and his orders complied with by him and former 1MDB CEO before him, Datuk  Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi and Azmi Tahir, former finance officer of 1MDB.

“We had 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 my career and I could be 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’s 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 hazemrahman@gmail.com. 

“I can also confirm the email which Jho Low used to communicate with me was through that email address, dealrainman1@gmail.com . 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 Hotel Shangri La, Putrajaya and Azlin introduced Jho Low as the unofficial adviser to Najib to set up 1MDB.

The witness said in the meeting, Jho 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 talk a lot in the meeting which was for him to meet Jho Low and Jho Low gave the history and background of 1MDB including how he established Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) and changed 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 said Jho Low also informed him that the company was completely under Najib and all decisions were under his authority.

“So I got the picture from that meeting that I needed 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 (ED) of 1MDB,.”

He added that he started working as group executive director and chief operating officer in 1MDB in August 2012 after settling his transfer from Sime Darby.

Mohd Hazem proceeded to say that Jho Low was an important person placed by Najib in 1MDB as a special adviser on 1MDB investment and fund raising and 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 RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of  money laundering involving the same amount.

The trial before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues tomorrow.