Shafee suggests hypothetical US$30m sum Najib received from 1MDB bonds mere ‘peanuts’, compared to US$577m diverted to Jho Low, fake Aabar entity

Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court March 14, 2022 . — Picture by Devan Manuel
Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court March 14, 2022 . — Picture by Devan Manuel

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak would have only gotten a relative sum amounting to “peanuts” if he had received US$30 million (RM90,899,927.28 million at the time of the charge) from multi-billion ringgit bonds raised by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), in comparison to funds amounting to US$577 million diverted from 1MDB bonds to fugitive Low Taek Jho and a fake Aabar entity, Najib’s lawyer suggested today.

Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said this while cross-examining the 12th prosecution witness Azmi Tahir.

Azmi, a former chief financial officer of 1MDB, was testifying in Najib’s power abuse and money laundering trial involving the alleged misappropriation of more than RM2 billion of 1MDB funds.

Shafee was going through the transactions that followed after 1MDB subsidiary 1MDB Energy Limited (1MEL) took on debt via the issuance of a US$1.75 billion bond in May 2012 in order to fund the purchase of an independent power producer.

Shafee listed various transactions in a chart he showed to Azmi, including how US$907.5 million of the US$1.75 billion bond was paid out on May 22, 2012 to 1MEL, and that a sum of close to US$577 million was on the same day then transferred to a British Virgin Islands company known as Aabar Investments PJS Limited — now known to be a fake entity that had a strikingly similar name to the actual company Aabar Investments PJS.

Shafee also said the fake Aabar then transferred over US$295 million from the fake Aabar on May 22 to Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners Limited (a company belonging to Low’s associate Eric Tan) and a further US$133 million sum was moved from the fake Aabar to Blackstone on July 25, 2012, with Azmi confirming today that the US$577 million sum that was meant to be a security deposit never came back to 1MDB.

Shafee also said that Blackstone later transferred millions of US dollars in June and July 2012 to Capital Place Holdings, a company owned by former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner’s ex-wife Judy Chan.

Shafee suggested that this US$1.75 billion bond raised by 1MEL to fund the acquisition of independent power producer Tanjong Energy Holdings Sdn Bhd (TEHSB) resulted in a huge chunk of the money being for the benefit of Low and Leissner instead, with Azmi replying: “Looks this way.”

Referring specifically to the chart of transactions that happened in the range of time from May 22, 2012 to July 9, 2012, Shafee then suggested that “there is no money that has been transferred to Datuk Seri Najib, whether directly or indirectly, from this chart”, which Azmi then replied: “Based on this chart, yes.”

Shafee then suggested: “Even assuming outside this range of period, RM90 million which is about US$30 million was transferred directly or indirectly, with or without knowledge of Datuk Seri Najib, you agree with me, based on this chart, US$30 million as compared to what Jho Low and Aabar received which is US$577 million is peanuts?”

“I’m not saying US$30 million is peanuts, I’m saying, in comparison, it is peanuts,” Shafee suggested.

Shafee then went on to ask if the person who benefited from the “perpetration of fraud was mostly Aabar Investments PJS Limited and Jho Low”, which Azmi then replied saying: “From this chart, yes.”

Shafee then went on to examine the second bond, a US$1.75 billion debt that 1MDB subsidiary 1MDB Energy (Langat) Limited (1MELL) took on in October 2012 to fund the purchase of independent power producer Mastika Lagenda Sdn Bhd.

Shafee highlighted that the two 1MDB bonds amounted to more than US$3 billion and that his client Najib was accused of having received about US$30 million in funds originating from these bonds, remarking: “Which I don’t know what my client is up to, because he seems to be getting peanuts if he is involved.”

Shafee went on to list a second chart of transactions that followed after US$1.64 billion of the bond money was paid to 1MELL on October 19, 2012, including how over US$790 million was then on the same day transferred to the fake Aabar, and how the funds later flowed to companies controlled by Low and his associate Tan including Blackstone, and a company each allegedly owned by Jasmine Loo and Leissner’s ex-wife.

Based on this second chart of transactions which he showed to Azmi, Shafee argued that no one else had benefitted from the 1MDB bonds.

The charts that Shafee had shown to Azmi today were prepared by Najib’s legal team, and which Shafee said was created based on facts.

The charts were in relation to the second of four power abuse charges under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act that Najib is facing.

Under the second power abuse charge, the former prime minister and former finance minister and former 1MDB advisory board chairman was accused of having used his position for his own gratification for the sum of RM90,899,927.28 by approving certain 1MDB-linked deals and transactions.

On the first day of trial, the prosecution had said it would prove that the funds that were channelled into Blackstone had flowed into Najib’s private bank account via a US$5 million sum on October 30, 2012 and a US$25 million sum on November 19, 2012.

The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes this afternoon.

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