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1MDB-Tanore trial: Amhari involved in embezzlement of 1MDB money, defence claims

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 19): Datuk Seri Najib Razak's former aide Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin could be involved in the conspiracy to embezzle 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) monies and transfer them into a fake entity in 2012 and 2014, the High Court was told today.

Such claim by the defence team is based on the fact that Amhari is the indirect shareholder of Aabar Investment PJS Ltd (BVI), which was misidentified as a unit of Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) — a company that guaranteed two tranches of bonds worth a total of US$3.5 billion issued by 1MDB.

Amhari, the eighth prosecution witness in the 1MDB-Tanore trial, however, denied the allegation.

The connection was made by lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who is representing the former prime minister in the 1MDB-Tanore trial.

It was revealed by Shafee in court that Aabar-BVI's shareholder is Tycoon Gain Ltd, which is also the sole shareholder of Aerosphere Ltd.

Tycoon Gain, is in turn a company that is owned by Amhari, Shafee pointed out during the witness' cross-examination earlier today.

Amhari previously testified that he is the shareholder of Aerosphere, the name he used when opening an account in BSI Singapore. The BSI account was opened under the instruction of Low Taek Jho — commonly known as Jho Low — in 2012 "as standby for GE13".

Shafee then accused Amhari of "manoeuvring his way" into being sent by Najib to facilitate 1MDB's settlement agreement with IPIC.

"Now that I have shown your relationship with Tycoon Gain, you went to Abu Dhabi to prevent the rotten smell of the company from coming out to [Najib]. This is so you can conceal this aspect of your involvement [in the 1MDB-IPIC deal]," said Shafee.

Recall that IPIC, as guarantor to the US$3.5 billion bonds, had to fork out US$1.2 billion after 1MDB was unable to commit to its obligations on the debt papers.

Amhari testified that he was sent by Najib to Abu Dhabi sometime in 2016 to meet with Khaldoon Mubarak, the CEO of Mubadala Investment Co — the parent of IPIC, to facilitate a settlement agreement between 1MDB and IPIC and to avoid an international arbitration.

In April 2017, the government announced that it will pay off the outstanding US$1.2 billion to IPIC and assume the liability on the two bonds.

According to the opening statement of the 1MDB-Tanore trial, US$577 million out of the US$1.75 billion raised from the first tranche of the bond was meant to be paid to IPIC as security deposits for the guarantee granted. That money was, however, siphoned through Aabar-BVI to Jho Low-linked Blackstone Asia in 2012.

On the US$1.75 billion raised from the second tranche of the 1MDB bond, about RM3 billion (estimated to be US$730 million) was transferred to Aabar-BVI. The transferred money was supposed to pay IPIC as the security deposit for its guarantee.

Najib is currently facing 42 counts of money laundering and abuse of power for the alleged embezzlement of 1MDB funds. The trial continues in the afternoon.

The Edge is reporting the proceedings of the 1MDB-Tanore trial live.

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