The larceny was disguised in an elaborate charade with the help of other characters, says Sri Ram
by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by ARIF KARTONO
FUGITIVE businessman Low Taek Jho (often called Jho Low) was Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s alter ego and they collaborated to hatch one of the world’s largest corporate larcenies, the Kuala Lumpur High Court was told yesterday.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram told the court at the start of Najib’s 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial that the prosecution will prove that Najib and Jho Low had acted in concert to scheme billions of ringgit and channel the funds into the former prime minister’s (PM) bank accounts and other associates.
He said the larceny was disguised in an elaborate charade with the help of other characters, including bogus deals, international players and financial figures with Najib playing the leading role.
Sri Ram also said Najib had misused his position as the PM and finance minister to reap gratification and colluded with Jho Low in the larceny.
“The prosecution will prove that the accused by his words and conduct made it clear to 1MDB’s officers, its board and others that Jho Low was his alter ego. In truth, Jho Low was the accused’s mirror image. The prosecution will establish facts which will give rise to an irresistible inference that Jho Low and the accused acted as one at all material times,” Sri Ram said.
The former Federal Court judge described Najib as the plenipotentiary of 1MDB.
“But it was the accused who played the pivotal role. His objective was to enrich himself,” Sri Ram said in his opening statement in the country’s biggest corporate larceny trial.
Najib was also the chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisors.
1MDB is one of the most probed cases in the world with investigation spanning more than six countries.
The US Justice Department estimated about US$4.5 billion (RM18.95 billion) had been stolen from the development fund, established by Najib. The money had been laundered to enrich political leaders and people of interest who had close ties to the then Malaysian government.
Proceeds from 1MDB were laundered and used to purchase luxury penthouses, properties, paintings, a private jet, fund movies and lavish high-class parties.
Jho Low, who had been charged in absentia over 1MDB dealings, fled the country in 2015, according to a witness testimony of the fund’s former subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd trial recently.
Many other characters who conspired in the 1MDB larceny including Jho Low remain at large.
The prosecution will detail the four stages of the larceny — PetroSaudi International Ltd or PSI, dubious acquisitions by 1MDB, a purported joint venture between 1MDB and Aabar Investment PJS Ltd, and Aabar options by 1MDB linked to International Petroleum Investment Co or IPIC, all devised between 2009 and 2014.
Sri Ram said the prosecution will also produce evidence to show that the accused took active steps to evade justice, including interfering with the investigation and steps had been taken to cover up the alleged criminal acts.
“After the 1MDB scandal broke in early July 2015, the accused with his mirror image Jho Low took steps to cover his tracks. Sham documents were produced to pretend a donation from an Arab prince,” he said.
Sri Ram singled out letters and four cheques each for a sum of US$25 million (RM105 million) purportedly written out by a person said to be the Arab donor, but these cheques were never cashed.
The prosecution also produced the fourth prosecution witness yesterday before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.
The fourth prosecution witness, Noorhaina Hirawani Mohd Noor, the former digital press secretary at the PM’s Office (PMO), testified that Najib signed off a RM2 million cheque to Orb Solutions Sdn Bhd in 2013 for a digital communication service.
Noorhaina Hirawani, who was the former co-director and CEO of Orb Solutions before she was seconded to the PMO, said the amount was paid for the day-to-day operations of the digital communication service provided for Najib’s online communications.
She said Najib’s aide Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin first engaged her for the digital communication job in 2008, following a reduced victory of the then ruling party Barisan Nasional in the 12th General Election as the former PM believed weak communications on social media was among the reasons for the unexpected election result.
Najib faces 21 counts of money laundering involving RM4.3 billion and four counts of corruption involving RM2.3 billion related to 1MDB funds which were deposited into his bank accounts.
Counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah leads the defence for Najib.
The prosecution is expected to call in about 60 witnesses throughout the trial, which will likely run until next year.