KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 — A former aide to Datuk Seri Najib Razak described the situation within the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as “helter-skelter” and “under immense pressure” after media reports on the misappropriation of funds originating from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) came out back in 2015.
Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, who was Najib’s private secretary, testified during today’s 1MDB trial proceedings of how red flags were raised within the PMO when reports by foreign and local outlets started to implicate his boss and the supposed involvement of fugitive financier Low Taek Jho.
“As a result of these exposés, the issues involving 1MDB started to gain traction in Malaysia and resulted in a ruckus within the PMO,” he said.
Amhari, the prosecution’s eighth witness, said the exposés related to funds originating from 1MDB were initially not an issue for the PMO, as the reports were mainly highlighting the exorbitant spending habits of Low, also known as Jho Low, with monies said to have come from the sovereign wealth fund.
Despite the negative connotations due to the close relationship Low and Najib shared, Amhari said his immediate boss, Najib’s former principle private secretary the late Datuk Azlin Alias was still able to manage the situation as reports were mainly focused on Low.
“However, in early 2015, the exposure had become a red flag issue that the PMO needed to address, especially through Datuk Azlin.
“The main issue that caused a negative impact towards Datuk Seri Najib at that time was concerning the acquisition of real estate, along with reports of financing towards a Hollywood movie by Datuk Seri Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, using 1MDB funds,” he said.
Amhari said among the more damaging reports were ones published by international agencies such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, along with local portals Sarawak Report and The Malaysian Insider.
He said the reports had detailed how Riza Aziz supposedly acquired luxury real estate in United States and funded the movie Wolf of Wall Street by the company Red Granite, all using funds originating from 1MDB.
“These were reported all at once and had caused a direct effect towards Datuk Seri Najib as Riza Aziz was his stepson.
“The issues exposed came as a major shock to all of us, including myself and Datuk Azlin,” he said.
Amhari then said that it was Low himself who handed him and Azlin talking points notes for damage control to be communicated to those within the PMO.
“During that period, we were instructed by Jho Low through talking points notes, given by him, to inform those within the PMO’s office that these were all manipulations by the Opposition and by those who wanted to see the fall of Datuk Seri Najib,” he said in court today.
In this trial, Najib is facing four counts of abusing his position for his own financial benefit totalling almost RM2.3 billion from the sovereign investment fund and the resulting 21 counts of money-laundering.
The trial resumes tomorrow morning before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.