Jho Low has the habit of masking offshore companies’ names, says witness

by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by ARIF KARTONO

FUGITIVE businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, deliberately gave names of offshore companies that resemble well-established entities to orchestrate his scheme in siphoning millions of dollars from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

In Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial, former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi (picture; right) testified that Jho Low had the habit of masking companies’ names, but he could not ascertain the motivation behind such a move, Bernama reported.

Najib’s defence counsel Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed brought up the naming issue at the court when he asked Shahrol Azral whether the witness was familiar with a private company called Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp (Admic).

Admic carried the same acronym for Jho Low’s Abu Dhabi Malaysian Investment Co Ltd (Admic Ltd).

Admic is a private investment company owned by Sheikh Mansour Zayed Al-Nahyan and British Sky Broadcasting, while Jho Low’s Admic Ltd was supposed to be the special-purpose vehicle for a 1MDB joint venture (JV).

Admic Ltd is a company that was originally registered as Malaysian Abu Dhabi Investment Co, or Madic, on March 5, 2013, but was changed to Admic Ltd on March 12 the same year.

Wan Aizuddin: Do you know how this change of name happened?

Shahrol Azral: There is a funny story behind it. Jho Low told me that the Abu Dhabi guys were sensitive that “Malaysia” came first in the name before “Abu Dhabi”. So, I said “Ikut suka mereka lah (Up to them)”. Jho Low said they would like to do this (change the name), I said I have no problem.

Wan Aizuddin: I am suggesting that the change of name (from Madic) to Admic was for the purpose to confuse people…to show that Admic could be the (media investment firm) Admic incorporated in Abu Dhabi.

Shahrol Azral: I have no comment on that.

Wan Aizuddin: I put it to you, that his change of name was a way, by Jho Low, to perfect his plan for him to embezzle billions of dollars from 1MDB.

Previously, Shahrol Azral testified that he and other senior management did not do due diligence before paying some US$577 million (RM2.42 billion) to Aabar Investments PJS Ltd, which was registered by Jho Low in the British Virgin Islands.

It was later found out to be a name under a disguise of the real Aabar called Aabar Investment PJS (without the “Ltd”). Meanwhile, Shahrol Azral said Jho Low had directed him not to get involved in a US$3 billion loan deal as Najib would “bulldoze” it through.

He testified that there was a pushback at the Finance Ministry (MoF) on the letter of comfort provided by the company to secure the financing but was told by Jho Low that it was under control as others were handling it.

“I went along with it and it was a train in motion. I received the talking points as to what was going to happen (from Jho Low).

“I went along with the plan as I believed that this was what Najib had wanted,” the ninth prosecution witness said.

1MDB via 1MDB Global Investment Ltd partnered “Aabar” to develop the Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (formerly known as the Tun Razak Exchange) with a US$3 billion bond raised for the JV.

1MDB’s debts stood at over RM10 billion at the time of the bond raising exercise.

Najib is facing 25 charges in the 1MDB trial — four counts of power abuse to obtain gratifications totalling RM2.3 billion linked to 1MDB and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same proceeds.

He has been convicted in the trial involving 1MDB’s unit SRC International Sdn Bhd.