Ismee agrees 1MDB money entered Najib's private accounts

Tan Sri Ismee Ismail (Photo by Zahid Izzani Mohd Said/The Edge)

Tan Sri Ismee Ismail (Photo by Zahid Izzani Mohd Said/The Edge)

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KUALA LUMPUR (April 7): Prosecution witness Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, former director of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), told the court that RM2.28 billion from 1MDB transactions had entered the personal accounts of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Prosecutor for the 1MDB-Tanore trial, Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, walked Ismee through various 1MDB transactions in his re-examination of the witness on Thursday morning, showing him that Najib, on several occasions, had money funnelled out of 1MDB and into his personal accounts.

Referring to a chart, Sri Ram showed the witness transactions of a joint venture between 1MDB and PetroSaudi Ltd in 2009, in which 1MDB had agreed to inject US$1 billion cash, while PSI was to inject US$1.5 billion worth of oilfield-related assets.

Out of the US$1 billion, US$700 million was transferred to Good Star Ltd — a company linked to fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho — instead of the joint venture company.

Sri Ram showed the witness that from the US$700 million, Najib received US$20 million via his personal accounts in two tranches of US$10 million each — one tranche was received via his personal AmBank account with number ending "694" on Feb 24, 2011 and the second tranche was received by Najib on June 14, 2011.

The US$20 million amounted to an equivalent of RM60 million.

It should be noted that the US$1 billion raised by 1MDB was in the form of RM5 billion Islamic medium term notes (IMTN), which were led by AmInvestment Bank Bhd.

Sri Ram: Part of the US$700 million went into Najib's account, so to the suggestion which was put to you that he did not receive any benefit from this IMTN, would you now like to review your answer?

Ismee: These documents were not shown to me during the cross-examination. From what I see here, I can see the flow of money which went into the accused's (Najib) account.

Sri Ram also asked Ismee if Najib had also benefitted from "Phase 4" of the 1MDB-Tanore case which revolved around a 1MDB Deutsche Bank loan, RM50 million of which ended up in a bank account with number ending "880" belonging to Najib. Deutsche Bank's US$1.225 billion loan was made up of a US$250 million bridging loan and a facility loan of US$975 million.

Ismee was shown charts of the money which went through several entities and then trickled into Najib's accounts.

Sri Ram: Having looked at these charts, would you like to review your answer that the accused (Najib) did not benefit from these?

Ismee: From the chart I can see that the funds went into the account.

Sri Ram: Funds from 1MDB?

Ismee: Yes, correct, from Deutsche Bank.

Sri Ram then walked Ismee through the acquisitions of two independent power producers, namely Tanjong Energy Holdings Sdn Bhd and Mastika Lagenda Sdn Bhd.

From Sri Ram's opening statement at the beginning of the trial, Mastika owned 75% shares in Genting Sanyen Sdn Bhd. To make the purchase, 1MDB acted through its subsidiaries 1MDB Energy Holdings Ltd, 1MDB Energy Ltd and 1MDB Energy (Langat) Ltd (all Labuan companies) as well as Malaysian registered companies, namely 1MDB Energy Sdn Bhd and 1MDB Energy (Langat). These companies were used to raise funds for both acquisitions.

A local bridging loan of RM6.17 billion was raised for the acquisition of Tanjong Energy. An additional sum of US$1.75 billion was raised through the issue of 10 year structured loan notes.

Of the US$1.75 billion, US$786 million went to Tanjong Energy. Of the balance, a sum of US$907 million was paid into the account of 1MDB Energy Ltd with Falcon Bank in Hong Kong. Of this sum, approximately US$577 million in round figures went to Aabar Investments PJS Ltd (BVI), now known as the fake Aabar.

On May 22, 2012, US$295 million was paid by Aabar to a company called Blackstone Asia. Blackstone is a company controlled by Jho Low through his associate Tan Kim Loong, also known as Eric Tan.

For the Mastika acquisition, the alleged purchase price was RM2.75 billion. The money for this came from two sources. First, there were another 10 year structured loan notes of US$1.75 billion. The second was a local loan of RM700 million. The total loan raised from these two sources was about RM6.16 billion.

From this, on Oct 30, 2012, a sum of US$5 million was paid into Najib's AmPrivate Bank account. Then, on Nov 19, a sum of US$25 million was paid into Najib's account.

He also walked Ismee through another joint venture with 1MDB and Aabar in equal shares. The joint venture company was called ADMIC.

The purpose of this alleged joint venture was to develop TRX or the Tun Razak Exchange in Kuala Lumpur. IPIC was to guarantee Aabar's investment.

Najib as minister of finance and prime minister at that time guaranteed 1MDB's investment by way of a letter of support. A loan of US$3 billion was raised for this alleged purpose.

According to Sri Ram's opening statement, the money did not go towards its intended purpose. Instead, through a series of elaborate diversions, a sum of RM2.08 billion ended up in Najib's AmBank private account through Tanore Finance Corp, another shell company owned by Jho Low.

The transfers took place between March 21, 2013 and April 10, 2013 from Tanore to Najib's accounts.

After showing Ismee the transactions which went into Najib's accounts, Sri Ram then asked Ismee, "Having seen these exhibits, would you like to review and revise your answer that the accused (Najib) did not benefit from these transactions?

Ismee: From the flow chart, I can see that money went into accused's accounts.

Sri Ram: And the money was 1MDB money?

Ismee: Yes.

'Najib and Jho Low had a close relationship'

During the start of re-examination on Ismee, Sri Ram queried him on Najib and Jho Low's relationship during his tenure as director of 1MDB.

Sri Ram: Throughout that period, from your observation, what did you gather about the relationship between Jho Low and Najib?

Ismee: I believe [it was a] close relationship.

Najib is currently facing 25 counts of money laundering and abuse of power for alleged misappropriation of money in 1MDB.

He is on trial for four counts of abuse of power and 21 counts of money laundering involving the aforementioned RM2.28 billion of 1MDB's funds.

The Edge is covering the trial live here.

Users of The Edge Markets app may tap here to access the live report.

Surin Murugiah