Najib’s 1MDB trial: Jho Low has the higher authority, High Court told

According to a former BSI Bank official, Jho Low had greenlighted the decision on a US$2.3bil 1MDB's offshore investment into the shell company.


May 9, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR – Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho was the “higher authority” in transactions involving Brazen Sky Ltd, a position above the then prime minister and the finance minister, the High Court heard.

Former BSI Bank wealth management services head Kevin Michael Swampillai, 59, said this was based on his observation that Low, also known as Jho Low, had greenlighted the decision on a US$2.3bil 1MDB’s offshore investment into Brazen Sky, a company set up to repatriate money belonging to 1MDB.

Swampillai said this during cross-examination in the RM2.28bil 1MDB trial involving former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, conducted by Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah here on Monday (May 8).

This was in contrast to the witness’ previous testimony where he said that he assumed Najib would have known the flow of funds transacted by 1MDB and three other companies (SRC International Sdn Bhd, Brazen Sky and Aabar BVI) through fiduciary funds.

Muhammad Shafee: Things at Brazen Sky cannot move unless the two directors (of 1MDB Azmi Tahir and Terence Geh) say ‘yes’. But what you said here in your written witness statement was that Jho Low prevailed over them?

Swampillai: Yes.

Muhammad Shafee suggested that Swampillai had earlier said in his testimony that Najib was the “higher authority” but with the particular transactions involving Brazen Sky, it appeared that Low “prevailed” over Azmi and Geh.

Swampillai answered “yes”.

Muhammad Shafee: So this is not a situation where the then prime minister and finance minister (Najib) prevailed over them?

Swampillai: Yes.

The 44th prosecution witness was also asked about his opinion on bank practices, in reference to the transaction involving Brazen Sky.

Muhammad Shafee: I want to ask you this question as (you were) a senior member of the bank, BSI. From your experience, would it be prudent for a company to sign, in consideration of a US$2.3bil in exchange of six promissory notes, from a company that was set up only a week ago with a paid up capital of US$100.

Swampillai: It’s a little difficult to respond to that because it would actually depend on why they were entering into the transaction.

(A promissory note is a written agreement by a party to pay back a loan given by another party.)

Swampillai said the only reason such a structure was used was to produce a false valuation report on the value of the assets in such a transaction.

Muhammad Shafee: And this was among other things to avoid detection by the auditors?

Swampillai: Yes, that’s right.

Najib, 70, is facing four charges of abusing his position to obtain gratification totalling RM2.28bil in 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money.

The hearing continues before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah on Tuesday (May 9).

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