Jho Low bandied about big names like Jordan’s Queen Rania, U2’s Bono for TIA, foundation, court told

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 18, 2019.
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KUALA LUMPUR: The defence in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia Development Bhd-Tanore (1MDB-Tanore) trial said fugitive financier Low Taek Jho had thrown out several big names as possible directors and trustees for the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) and its foundation.

The former premier’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah alleged that the businessman, better known as Jho Low, pulled this move to impress the Terengganu government.

Besides naming the Sultan of Terengganu and then Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin as the chairman of the fund, others Jho Low put forward to sit on the board included Najib himself, former Kuwaiti deputy prime minister Sheikh Dr Mohd Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah, former Exxon chief executive officer (CEO) Lee Raymond, LVMH Moët Hennessy chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, former General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, Mubadala CEO and managing director Khaldoon Al Mubarak and former Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner.

Meanwhile, Jho Low suggested that the TIA’s foundation be chaired by Sultan Mizan, while possible trustees included Najib's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Jordan’s Queen Rania Abdullah, and U2 singer and philantropist Bono.

Muhammad Shafee suggested to witness Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin (pic) that the idea came from Jho Low, which the witness affirmed.

This followed the senior defence lawyer referring to the appendix of a letter, from then TIA CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi dated May 4, 2009, during his cross-examination of the witness.

Amhari said the names were suggested by Jho Low during one of the secret meetings he held with the fugitive businessman, along with the late Datuk Azlin Alias, who was Najib’s principal private secretary.

The witness said he did not know whether the names given by Jho Low were meant to impress the Terengganu authorities — including Sultan Mizan.

Muhammad Shafee: How did [the name of] Bernard Arnault’s of Loius Vuitton fame come up? Did it strike you that it could be a con job?

Amhari: I do not know.

The senior lawyer then brought up the other famous names suggested for the TIA’s foundation to bolster his claim that Jho Low was conning them.

However, the witness said he was not aware of the foundation's composition.

Earlier yesterday, Amhari agreed that while he had said in his witness statement that the TIA — the precursor of 1MDB — was Najib’s “baby”, the former special aide to Najib later agreed, when shown documents by the defence, that the TIA was indeed mooted by Sultan Mizan himself when he was the 13th Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The fund was intended to ensure that the state would continue to have revenue and be developed should its vast oil reservoirs dry up.