1MDB trial: Najib’s ex-aide denies US$200,000 a gift from Jho Low

Former special officer to Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, is seen at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex, September 5, 2019. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
Former special officer to Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, is seen at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex, September 5, 2019. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s former aide today denied receiving US$200,000 in 2011 as a gift from businessman Low Taek Jho, insisting instead that it was a loan from the latter.

Najib’s former special officer Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin was testifying as the eighth prosecution witness in Najib’s corruption trial over 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Amhari today insisted that the US$200,000 (RM600,200) which was transferred to his Maybank account on April 5, 2011 was a “bridging loan” from Low to enable him to buy a new house, while he tried to sell off his old house.

Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah suggested that Amhari did not really intend to use the money as a loan, but Amhari denied this.

Shafee: There was no serious attempt by you to sell it, you did not borrow that money from Jho Low, that money is Jho Low’s gift for you.

Amhari: I disagree.

Amhari currently owns the house that he wanted to sell — “House number 11”, and the house that he wanted to buy — “House number 29”.

Earlier, Shafee highlighted that the house that Amhari wanted to sell for RM700,000 in 2011 was to a couple who were only aged 24 then.

But Amhari said he was not surprised at their age then, noting that his property agent had looked into it and that they were genuine buyers. Amhari also confirmed that the duo were the only ones he had tried to sell the house to.

Due to the house being a leasehold property in Selangor, the state authority’s consent was needed before it could be sold.

Amhari said he had through lawyers submitted an appeal to the Selangor government, after the initial application for the sale of the house was rejected.

Amhari said the house now remains with him and is rented out and no longer put up for sale, confirming that the loan for this has since been paid off.

Shafee then suggested that Amhari’s claim of requiring the US$200,000 for the bridging loan was an “afterthought”, referring to documents on the house.

“Because US$200,000 came in in April, you would need bridging if you are already selling the house, but this was registered in August. You got the money in April, so what bridging are you talking about? You kept it in the account,” Shafee said.

Amhari replied “I disagree”.

Amhari had previously confirmed that he has yet to repay the loan from Low, who is better known as Jho Low.

Today, Amhari also confirmed relying on written talking points provided by Low during a June 2016 trip to China as Najib’s special envoy, and that he had received a report from Low about the meeting with senior Chinese officials that they had attended together.

Amhari said he had then presented the report by Low to Najib who was then the prime minister, confirming that he did not produce any report himself.

Shafee then asked: “He sent you to China as his officer, special envoy...you produced no report at all as a special envoy?”

Amhari confirmed this and further said: “This is a special mission, this is something I did because I was loyal to Datuk Seri Najib and I did it for him.”

When Shafee said that Amhari should have prepared his own special report to Najib since it was a “special mission”, Amhari disagreed.

Asked if he had just relied on Low, Amhari said that he lacked details about the projects that were discussed in the meeting: “I’m just a coordinator or facilitator. I don’t have a say on what can be included in the meeting.”

Amhari said he did not take notes during this meeting but noted that he sometimes took notes. 

Amhari previously testified that Low had himself spoke on projects with Chinese officials during the June 2016 meeting.

Najib’s ongoing 1MDB trial involves 25 criminal charges — four counts of abusing his position for his own financial benefit totalling almost RM2.3 billion allegedly originating from 1MDB and the resulting 21 counts of money-laundering.

The trial before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow morning.

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