KUALA LUMPUR — The 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) trial involving Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the High Court here became heated when lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah questioned former 1MDB chief financial officer (CFO) Azmi Tahir over fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low’s lavish lifestyle.
Muhammad Shafee, in cross-examining Azmi, 49, had asked the 12th prosecution witness whether he and the 1MDB management knew of Jho Low’s ‘hard partying lifestyle’, whereby Jho Low allegedly partied with reality TV star Paris Hilton and bought gifts for Australian model Miranda Kerr which made headlines in 2010.
Muhammad Shafee: You know, part of 1MDB’s bond receipts had been transferred to companies controlled by Jho Low in 2012. To this, Azmi replied that Jho Low’s private life was not a concern to 1MDB.
“It’s Jho Low’s personal life. We have politicians here whose personal lives are also questionable,” added the witness.
The lawyer then countered that Jho Low’s partying life had been widely reported and that the amount of money he spent to party was said to be “close to insanity”.
When Muhammad Shafee asked why the management did not inform the board of directors and lodge a police report, Azmi replied: “I don’t see what is the link that you are trying to make. It would be a concern for me if the transactions were fraudulent.”
Muhammad Shafee also went through the transactions that followed after 1MDB subsidiary, 1MDB Energy Limited (1MEL) took on a debt via the issuance of a US$1.75 billion bond in May 2012 in order to fund the purchase of an independent power producer.
He listed various transactions in a chart he showed to Azmi, including how US$907.5 million of the US$1.75 billion bond was paid out on May 22, 2012 to 1MEL, and that a sum of close to US$577 million was then transferred on the same day to a British Virgin Islands company known as Aabar Investments PJS Limited – now known to be a fake entity that has a strikingly similar name to the actual company, Aabar Investments PJS.
Muhammad Shafee also said that the fake Aabar then transferred over US$295 million from itself on May 22 to Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners Ltd (a company belonging to Jho Low’s associate, Eric Tan) and a further sum of US$133 million moved from the fake Aabar to Blackstone on July 25, 2012, with Azmi confirming that the US$577 million that was meant to be a security deposit never came back to 1MDB.
The lawyer also said that Blackstone later transferred millions of US dollars in June and July 2012 to a company owned by former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner’s ex-wife, Judy Chan.
Referring specifically to the chart of transactions that happened between May 22, 2012 and July 9, 2012, Muhammad Shafee suggested that no money had been transferred to Datuk Seri Najib, whether directly or indirectly, to which Azmi replied: “Based on this chart, yes.”
Muhammad Shafee then said: “Even assuming outside this range of period, RM90 million which is about US$30 million was transferred directly or indirectly, with or without the knowledge of Datuk Seri Najib, you agree with me that based on this chart, the US$30 million compared to what Jho Low and Aabar received which was US$577 million, is peanuts?”
“I’m not saying US$30 million is peanuts, I’m saying, in comparison, it’s peanuts,” the lawyer added.
The Pekan MP is facing four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.
Justice Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah who is presiding over the trial, fixed tomorrow for case management.