KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 18): The defence in Datuk Seri Najib Razak's 1Malaysia Development Bhd-Tanore (1MDB-Tanore) trial told the High Court here yesterday that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho had bandied about several big names as possible directors and trustees for the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) and its foundation.
The former premier's lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah alleged that the businessman, better known as Jho Low, pulled this move to impress the Terengganu government.
Besides naming the Terengganu Sultan and then-Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin as chairman of the fund, others the Penang-born Jho Low put forward to sit on the board included Najib himself, former Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Dr Mohd Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah, Exxon chief executive officer (CEO) Lee Raymond, LVMH Moët Hennessy chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, former General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, Mubadala CEO and MD Khaldoon Al Mubarak, and Walt Disney former CEO Michael Eisner.
Meanwhile, he suggested that TIA's foundation be chaired by Sultan Mizan, while possible trustees include Najib's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Jordan's Queen Rania Abdullah and U2 singer and philanthropist Bono.
Shafee suggested to the witness Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin that the idea came from Jho Low, which the witness affirmed.
This followed the senior defence lawyer referring to an appendix of a letter from TIA CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi dated May 4, 2009, during his cross-examination of the witness.
Amhari, who is the eighth prosecution witness, said the names were suggested by Jho Low during one of the secret meetings he held with the fugitive businessman, along with the late Datuk Azlin Alias, who was Najib's principal private secretary.
The witness said he does not know whether the names given by Jho Low were meant to impress the Terengganu authorities — including Sultan Mizan.
Shafee: How did Bernard Arnault's of Loius Vuitton fame came up, did it strike you that it could be a con job?
Amhari: I do not know.
The senior lawyer then brought up the other famous names suggested for the TIA foundation to bolster his claim that Jho Low was conning them.
However, the witness said he was not aware of the foundation's composition.
Earlier yesterday, Amhari agreed that while he had said in his witness statement that TIA — which was the precursor to 1MDB — was Najib's "baby", the former special aide to Najib later agreed, when shown documents by the defence, that TIA was indeed mooted by Sultan Mizan himself when he was the 13th Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
The fund was intended to ensure that the state would continue to have revenue and be developed should its vast oil reservoirs dry up.
Najib faces 25 charges of abuse of power and money-laundering involving billions of ringgit allegedly siphoned from 1MDB.
The hearing before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues today.