Court: Lawyer can appear for Jho Low over pink diamond lawsuit

khairuddin-jho-lwo-1KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyer Francis Ng Aik Guan can represent businessman Low Taek Jho in a lawsuit filed by former Umno member Khairuddin Abu Hassan to seek the return of a 22-carat pink diamond allegedly purchased for the prime minister’s wife Rosmah Mansor.

The High Court today dismissed Khairuddin’s application to cross-examine the business tycoon, also known as Jho Low, to set aside the appointment of Ng.

Justice Ahmad Zaidi Ibrahim said he found that Jho Low’s signature to affirm an affidavit on the appointment at the Malaysian consulate-general’s office in Hong Kong was genuine.

“The plaintiff (Khairuddin) claims a possible forgery of Jho Low’s signature in appointing the lawyer but there is insufficient evidence before the court,” the judge said.

Zaidi said Khairuddin also failed to convince the court to strike out the appointment and as such, his application to cross-examine Jho Low was also dismissed.

Khairuddin’s lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar said he had been instructed to file an appeal in the Court of Appeal.

Last year, Khairuddin filed an application to set aside a warrant that authorised Ng to represent Low, claiming that the lawyer’s appointment was under suspicious circumstances.

Lawyer Rishwant Singh, who represented Ng, had submitted last month that there was no need for Khairuddin to get a court order to cross-examine Low on the affidavit.

“The signature on his affidavit matches the one on Messr Ng Aik Guan’s appointment letter,” Rishwant said.

On Aug 16, Khairuddin, a former vice-chairman of Umno’s Batu Kawan division who quit the party in 2016, filed the suit seeking a court order for Rosmah to return the piece of jewellery, said to be worth US$27.3 million (RM108 million at current exchange rate), to sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

He said 1MDB had obtained US$6.5 billion (RM27.93 billion) by borrowing from overseas lenders, and that the company was the beneficial owner of the money.

He alleged that Jho Low committed theft or criminal breach of trust of the said loans and had no title in law or in equity over the money.

Khairuddin claimed that between June 2013 and March 2014, Jho Low, acting through his agent Tan Kim Loong, purchased the jewellery from Loraine Schwartz in New York.

The United States’ Department of Justice (DoJ) has filed two civil forfeiture lawsuits to recover assets worth US$1.8 billion (RM7.7 billion) that it claimed were bought with funds from 1MDB.

The suits constituted the largest legal action brought under the DoJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

The first suit was filed on July 21, 2016.

On June 15 last year, the DoJ, in its court filings, said nearly US$30 million was allegedly stolen from the sovereign wealth fund and used to buy jewellery.

The filings lodged at the US district court in Los Angeles did not identify Najib or Rosmah by name, but said the jewellery purchases were for the wife of “Malaysian Official 1”.

The prime minister’s office had said in a statement that it was “concerned by the unnecessary and gratuitous naming of certain matters and individuals that are only relevant to domestic political manipulation and interference.”

Najib has denied any wrongdoing while Rosmah has dismissed claims of being a beneficiary in any way from 1MDB funds.