KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — Flamboyant businessman Low Taek Jho gave the impression he was a person of influence with close ties to Malaysian royalty and high-ranking persons in Middle Eastern countries, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said in his defence today.
The former prime minister accused of misappropriating RM42 million from SRC International Sdn Bhd, a company once parked under the scandal-riddled 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), told the High Court that he believed the Penang-born Low had the means and capability to help the sovereign investment fund achieve its goals.
He noted that 1MDB’s precursor, the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), was set up following Low’s discussions with Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin of Terengganu who was also at that that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia and the Terengganu state government.
“I was made to understand that Jho Low was selected as the advisor to the chairman of the board of advisors of TIA who at that time was His Royal Highness Tuanku (Sultan Mizan) himself,” Najib read out slowly from his 243-page sworn statement as the first defence witness, pausing after every three to four words.
Najib’s statement, which was read out entirely in Malay, consists of 317 questions and answers which sought to explain matters from the point of 1MDB and SRC International Sdn Bhd’s formation, to the process of the RM4 billion loans being applied and approved from the Retirement Fund (Incorporated) (KWAP).
Najib told the court that given Low’s representation, he believed the man to have strong connections with the governments of the Middle East and someone with the ability to expedite business and investment deals with these countries.
“These countries already had an excess of cash due to the increase in oil prices.
“Because of that I was of the opinion that the influence and relationships of Jho Low would indeed make meeting the goals and investments of 1MDB as they were intended to be,” the Pekan MP testified.
Of the seven charges he was asked to enter his defence, Najib is accused of committing three counts of criminal breach of trust over a total RM42 million of SRC International funds while entrusted with its control as the prime minister and finance minister then, and a separate charge of abusing the same positions for self-gratification of the same sum.
For the remaining three charges, he is accused of laundering RM42 million.
Najib’s defence trial will run from December 3 to 4, December 9 to 12 and December 16 to 19.