Jho Low suggested U2’s Bono, Queen Rania as TIA trustees, court told

Bono of Irish rock band U2 was among names suggested by Jho Low to be appointed as trustees for a foundation under Terengganu Investment Authority. (AFP pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low proposed big names as members of the board of trustees of a foundation that was to be set up by the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), a former special officer to Najib Razak told the High Court today.

Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, 43, confirmed that the foundation, meant to be under TIA, the predecessor of 1MDB, had in its list of trustees Irish rock band U2’s lead vocalist Bono, Queen Rania of Jordan and Walt Disney ex-CEO Michael Eisner.

He was being cross-examined by Najib’s lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah on the eighth day of the former prime minister’s 1MDB trial.

Sifting through the documents dated May 4, 2009 related to the setting up of TIA and its charitable foundation, Shafee said the document had proposed Terengganu ruler Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, who in 2009 was also the Agong, as chairman of the foundation.

Among other names listed in the document read in court by counsel were Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor, former Terengganu menteri besar Ahmad Said, Mubadala Development CEO Khaldoon Al Mubarak, ExxonMobil ex-chairman Lee Raymond, and Louis Vuitton CEO Bernard Arnault.

Shafee: Do you know how all of these names came about?
Amhari: Jho Low provided these names in one of the notes to Najib’s principal private secretary, the late Azlin Alias, and myself, in one of our meetings in Prince Hotel.
Shafee: Do you know if Jho Low was taking them for a ride?
Amhari: I’m not sure.
Shafee: I’m suggesting to you these names were thrown by Jho Low to impress the Terengganu government and federal government.
Amhari: I don’t know.
Shafee: I put it to you, most of the personalities didn’t even know their names were quoted.
Amhari: I don’t know.

Shafee further suggested that the big names were signs that Jho Low was conning them, to which the eighth prosecution witness denied any knowledge.

Shafee: How did Bernard Arnault’s name come up? Did it cross your mind what Louis Vuitton was doing in TIA? Did it strike you that it could be a con job?
Amhari: I do not know.

The witness also agreed to a suggestion by counsel that the name change from TIA to 1MDB was the idea of 1MDB’s former CEO, Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, based on the letter from the latter to Najib dated June 25, 2009.

Shafee then read out a script from an annual report produced by Malaysia-based investment holding company UBG Berhad.

Shafee: From all that you have seen today, are you surprised that Jho Low was, in fact, eyeing petroleum in Terengganu through this UBG report?
Amhari: Relatively surprised, yes.
Shafee: Jho Low did not tell you?
Amhari: No.

Najib, 66, is facing four charges of abusing his position to corruptly obtain RM2.3 billion of 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering related to the money.

The Pekan MP allegedly committed the four offences at AmIslamic Bank Berhad, Jalan Raja Chulan branch, Bukit Ceylon here between Feb 24, 2011, and Dec 19, 2014, and the 21 charges, between March 22, 2013, and Aug 30, 2013, at the same place.

The trial before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues tomorrow.