Jho Low cheated us, Najib claims

PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Najib Razak today claimed that the previous government had been cheated by controversial businessman Low Taek Jho, who is accused of masterminding the 1MDB scandal.

“Yes it’s true (he cheated us), based on the conclusions we can draw today. This is what happened,” he said in a live interview with Sinar Harian today.

He also sought to clear the air on the nature of his relationship with Low, better known as Jho Low, saying he had no knowledge of and was never involved in the businessman’s private life.

Stressing that his relationship with Jho Low was on a purely professional basis, Najib said he only came to know about the businessman’s private lifestyle much later.

Prior to the 1MDB scandal, he said, Jho Low had had close relations with Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“He successfully brought in investments through various companies. He had a track record of relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“That is how I viewed him. If we could use his back channel relations with these countries, we could enhance economic cooperation and improve diplomatic ties with them,” he said.

The Pekan MP said he later learned about Jho Low’s lifestyle, including his possession of a superyacht and a private jet, and his penchant for lavish parties.

“I was never involved in this. I knew nothing about what he was doing privately, as what we have come to know today.

“I wish to state that our relationship was professional, because I saw that he could bring value to investments from the Middle East to Malaysia, and (enhance) economic and diplomatic ties.”

When asked how the signs that Jho Low’s actions might have led to the loss of billions could have been missed, Najib said action must be taken against the businessman if he had violated the country’s laws.

“If he has committed a crime, CBT (criminal breach of trust), that is against the law so action must be taken against him,” he said.

Back then, he said, they had appointed lawyers, auditors and US investment bank Goldman Sachs to protect the interests of Malaysia.

“If the bank failed to protect Malaysia’s interests, how was I supposed to know? They should have informed us.

“It is clear that Goldman Sachs failed to carry out their responsibility. The system we created to protect these interests – the investment bank, the lawyers, and the auditors – they did not play their roles,” he said.

Najib, who fell from power after the historic polls on May 9, also admitted that the 1MDB scandal had been a factor in Barisan Nasional’s (BN) heavy defeat.

However, he added that the issue had been exploited for political gain to bring down the BN government.

“1MDB is one of the causes. We lost because of various factors. In rural areas, 1MDB was not a major factor. In urban areas, it could have been the main cause.

“We also lost because of the sweet promises made by Pakatan Harapan which, until today, have not been fulfilled,” he said, adding that even the young voters in his constituency had been swayed by these promises and did not vote for him.