UPDATED KUALA LUMPUR: The prosecution in the much awaited 1MDB trial today said Najib Razak and fugitive financier Low Taek Jho worked in cahoots to steal millions of ringgit from the state investor.
Ad-hoc prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram said the businessman better known as Jho Low was Najib’s mirror image.
“The prosecution will establish facts which will give rise to an irresistible inference that Jho Low and the accused (Najib) acted as one at all material times,” he said in the 17-page opening statement read before trial judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.
The former Federal Court judge, who has been given a fiat to lead the prosecution team, said it would also prove that the accused by his words and conduct made it clear to 1MDB’s officers, its board and others that Jho Low was his alter ego.
Najib is facing 25 charges of money laundering and abuse of power over alleged 1MDB funds in his AmBank accounts.
He is accused of abusing his position to obtain RM2.28 billion in bribes in February 2011 and December 2014.
He is also said to have transferred the RM2.28 billion in illegal funds to his bank accounts and to have subsequently used the money.
Sri Ram said the case concerned funds from 1MDB, originally called Terengganu Investment Authority before it became 1MDB under Najib.
“He also caused amendments to be made to the articles of the company to place himself in sole control of important matters concerning the business and affairs of 1MDB,” he said.
Sri Ram said Najib was 1MDB’s plenipotentiary, adding that as the chairman of its board of advisers, as well as the prime minister and finance minister, he exerted his influence over the board to carry out unusual transactions.
“The ultimate aim of the accused was to obtain gratification for himself. He succeeded in achieving that aim,” he added.
‘Sham documents from Arab prince’
He said an “elaborate charade” was employed and was acted out in four phases in which several characters played a part.
“The events in respect of them are to be considered as part of a consecutive story because of the pre-arranged plan by the accused to enrich himself,” said Sri Ram.
Sri Ram said the four charges for abuse of power and 21 counts of money laundering were in respect of each of the four phases.
He said the prosecution will prove, through direct and circumstantial evidence, that the accused in different roles took several steps that led to part of 1MDB’s funds being channelled into his account through a circuitous route to prevent detection of its source.
Sri Ram said after the 1MDB scandal broke in early July 2015, the accused and Jho Low took steps to cover their tracks.
He said sham documents were produced to pretend it was a donation from an Arab prince.
“Among these were letters and four cheques each for a sum of US$25 million purportedly written out by a person said to be the Arab donor. But these cheques were never meant to be encashed and were never encashed,” he added.
Sri Ram said the prosecution would also produce evidence to show that the accused took active steps to evade justice and interfered with the course of investigation.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) estimates US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by fund officials and their associates between 2009 and 2014.
DoJ has also filed lawsuits to seize some US$1.7 billion in assets it said were purchased with stolen 1MDB money.
Malaysia has also filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs and its former employees, and is seeking up to US$7.5 billion in reparations from Goldman over its dealings with 1MDB.
DoJ is also investigating the bank for its role as underwriter and arranger of three bond offers.