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Jho Low was 'higher authority' behind 1MDB offshore investment, court told

Kevin Micheal Swampillai, the 44th prosecution witness in the trial, testifies that Low had given the nod for the investment to take place.

2 minute read
Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho. Photo: AFP
Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho. Photo: AFP

A former Singaporean banker told the High Court yesterday that based on his observation, fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low was the higher authority who green-lighted the financial decision involving 1MDB offshore investment in Brazen Sky Limited.

Former BSI bank head of wealth management services, Kevin Micheal Swampillai, 59, agreed to a suggestion by Najib Razak’s counsel, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, that that situation made Jho Low seem more powerful, prevailing over 1MDB's two directors, Terence Geh and Azmi Tahir.

Previously, it was established in court that Brazen Sky is a company established on July 12, 2012, in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) as a transit or special purpose vehicle (SPV) to repatriate 1MDB investment funds.

The 44th prosecution witness said it was his impression that Azmi and Geh were not empowered to make any decisions involving the transaction and that they had to refer to a higher authority, which he observed pointing to Jho Low.

He said this during cross-examination by Shafee at Najib’s trial involving the misappropriation of RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds.
Shafee: Things at Brazen Sky cannot move unless Azmi and Geh say yes, but you said in your witness statement that Jho Low prevailed over them. The decision was in accordance with Jho Low’s decision?

Kevin: Yes.

Shafee: In your witness statement, you also stated that Najib is the higher authority, which you then clarified as a mere assumption, but right now it seems your answer conflicted with paragraph 48 (of the witness statement) regarding the transactions referring to "higher authority" as Jho Low, where Jho Low is prevailing over them (Azmi and Geh)?

Kevin: Yes.

Shafee: It’s not a situation where the then prime minister and finance minister (Najib) prevailed over them (Azmi and Geh)?

Kevin: Yes.

Kevin added he would never think that Najib would be involved in these transactions as these were operational matters that required micromanagement.

Earlier, the witness repeated that Jho Low had threatened to take 1MDB-related businesses elsewhere whenever BSI representatives pressed him for further clarifications or questions on the transactions.

He said, Yak Yew Chee, who at the time was the BSI relationship manager, was the primary person who dealt with Jho Low over the 1MDB-related issues.

“I have no idea where Yak is at the moment. I last met with Yak in Singapore at the start of this year,” said the witness.

The trial before justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues today.

Najib, 70, is facing four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.