Witness: Jho Low controls 1MDB’s funds abroad, not CEO

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by BERNAMA

FUGITIVE businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, was the one who controlled 1Malaysian Development Bhd’s (1MDB) funds abroad, while the company’s CEO was denied access, the court heard.

In former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial, former 1MDB CEO Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman (picture) testified that he had no access nor was he in the know about the company’s funds overseas.

Mohd Hazem, who was the CEO from March 2013 until January 2015, said Jho Low and 1MDB general counsel Jasmine Loo were the only persons with access to the funds.

The 10th prosecution witness further said Jho Low had also instructed him to not interfere with the foreign funds.

He said the funds abroad, which were estimated to be US$3.8 billion or some RM13 billion at the time, would be enough to pay off 1MDB’s debts with Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) and also provide start-up capital for any 1MDB project in the country.

In 2014, he said 1MDB had to pay off a loan with Maybank which was taken to buy Tanjong Power shares in 2012 amounting to RM2.5 billion.

“There were many 1MDB expenses which involved project financing funds such as the development of infrastructure for TRX (Tun Razak Exchange) and Jimah (Jimah Energy Ventures Sdn Bhd), which were financed through new debts,” Mohd Hazem said at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday.

He added that at the time, he did not know if 1MDB still had funds abroad or they had been used for Umno, as what was told to him earlier.

The witness said he was worried over 1MDB’s huge debts and the company’s ability to repay them. Due to unrealistic plans set for 1MDB by Jho Low, Mohd Hazem said he wanted to quit the CEO post and had expressed the intention to 1MDB CFO Azmi Tahir in September 2013, about six months on the job.

Mohd Hazem also said he told Najib’s former principal private secretary, the late Datuk Azlin Alias, about his intention to leave the company.

He said Azlin always advised him to resign after the listing of 1MDB Energy Ltd on Bursa Malaysia, which failed to materialise due to, among others, many negative views and news on 1MDB, which gave a negative perception to investors.

“But, at the end of October 2014, after I returned from performing the haj, I mentioned to Jho Low and Azlin that I was serious about resigning as CEO,” he said.

Mohd Hazem said he told Azlin to tell Jho Low to find a candidate to take his position because none of his subordinates wanted to replace him.

He said when Arul Kanda Kandasamy was appointed 1MDB president on Jan 5, 2015, he thought it was an appropriate time to resign as the post of president is similar to that of CEO.

In a previous proceeding, he said 1MDB was the “biggest trap in Malaysia’s corporate history”.

Mohd Hazem also testified yesterday that he drew a salary of RM97,000 monthly at 1MDB before stepping down from his post.

He said his first salary as the CEO was RM93,000.

Moreover, the witness said he received a five-month bonus in 2013 and a 10-month bonus in 2014 during his tenure as CEO.

He denied conspiring with Jho Low to embezzle funds from 1MDB nor having received a cent from the funds raised through loans and bonds, while he was the CEO and COO.

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

The 1MDB trial is adjourned until Oct 5.